Looking beyond 2007, workshop on the future of SAT3
JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA, Jul 24
In July 2006, APC is to hold a workshop at Johannesburg, which will crystal-gaze into the future and discuss the future of SAT3, a crucial submarine cable on which hinges Africa’s chances to get a smoother ride to cyberspace.
Estimated to cost US $639 million when launched in April 2002, this undersea telecommunications cable links western and south Africa with Europe and Asia.
SAT3 fibre consortium has nine African country members, all of which are either publicly or privately-owned incumbent telcos. The nine member countries are: Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Benin, Nigeria, Cameroon, Gabon, Namibia and Angola.
At the beginning of June 2007, the national monopolies of current SAT3 consortium members in Africa will end. But what happens after this?
To discuss this issue, a workshop is being held — on what happens when national monopolies end, and what does this mean for regulators — at the Indaba Hotel, Johannesburg, on July 24-25, 2006.
"SAT3 national monopolies in each of the nine countries have tended to keep the price of international connectivity very high," said Association for Progressive Communications (APC) executive director Anriette Esterhuysen in a statement.
In recent years, though prices have come down, they are in many instances still more expensive than their satellite equivalent. Landlocked countries and those without a SAT3 connection also face high connectivity costs, she noted.
The high price of international connectivity affects the continent’s ability to attract investors and for it to
participate in new service activities like outsourcing.
It makes communications between African countries — which is vital for trade — more costly. It also makes Africa more isolated from the global community and diminishes the ability of African schools and universities to use the internet as a research and learning resource.
"This also slows down the pace of socio-economic development as people are restricted in their use of ICTs as an enabler of development," said the APC statement, announcing the event.
Political development is also inhibited as citizens in many countries lack access to diverse sources of information with which to participate effectively as citizens in the deliberations and decision making affecting their lives.
This workshop is being organised by the APC (Association for Progressive Communications), AFRISPA (African Internet Service Providers’ Association), CATIA (Catalysing Access to ICT in Africa), CRASA (Communications Regulators Association of Southern Africa) and Balancing Act with support from OSI
and OSIWA (Open Society Institute and OSI West Africa).
It aims to brief participants on the issues involved and allow them to discuss with their fellow regulators how they might be tackled
"The idea for the workshop emerged from the regulators who attended a meeting organised in Senegal at the end of 2005 by OSIWA to address ways of getting cheaper international connectivity in the region. It is also informed by issues raised during the evolution of the EASSy fibre project that will connect East African countries in 2008," Esterhuysen said.
Early confirmed participants will receive a briefing paper in advance and will hear presentations from some of the key players involved.
In particular, workshop participants will hear from countries that have experienced problems and from those countries that have already begun to seek solutions.
Said Esterhuysen: "Because the SAT3 fibre operates at an international level, it makes sense to address the issue across country boundaries. This is probably the first time these issues have been addressed in this way on the continent. Not every country will want to tackle the topic in the same way but it will allow colleagues from different countries to share their ideas."