September 29, 2011 - 14:30
The following is the output of the real-time captioning taken during the Sixth Meeting of the IGF, in Nairobi, Kenya. Although it is largely accurate, in some cases it may be incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors. It is posted as an aid to understanding the proceedings at the session, but should not be treated as an authoritative record.
>> DR. NII QUAYNOR: Good afternoon. I'd like to welcome
You to the session on Interconnecting Africa: Opportunities and obstacles along the way.
This session promises to be very exciting and very high level and is supposed to include as much participation from you as much as possible. In case you don't recognize, I'm Nii Quaynor. I've been around from the beginning. So often times I'm called upon to help start discussions. A Nick would like to welcome you as well and the Internet society have been collaborating on capacity building and critical resource development for the Internet in Africa for several years now.
AfriNIC is a non‑government and not‑for‑profit membership based organization. Its main role is to serve the Africa region as a regional Internet registry for the Internet resources.
The Internet society, ISOC is a nonprofit organization founded in 1992 to provide leadership in Internet related standards, education and policy, dedicated to ensuring the open development, evolution and use of the Internet for the benefit of people throughout the world, especially those of us who need the help the most, including Africa. To highlight the challenges and opportunities of interaction in Africa, and identify issues hampering the growth of Internet networks on the continent and to identify solutions to overcome these problems.
What we will try to do is to give the panelists a chance to make opening comments, which will be relatively short. And then after that, we'll open for discussions from ‑‑ stimulated by the floor.
So, I'd like to invite the first speaker, but you need to hear the special comments I have to make about my brother, who has been through a lot of things with us in developing the African technical Internet community. He has been a pillar without which we would not have reached this far. Dr. Tarek (off‑mic) on the development of Internet services in the industry. Dr. Tarek is one of the founding Board Members of AfriNIC and has also served as Vice‑President for the Internet chapters and on its Board of Trustees. He has also contributed significantly over the past 20 years for the development of Internet in Egypt, in Africa, and in developing countries at large. He previously chaired both the Minesterial Committee on ICT of the African Union and the Executive Bureau of the Arab Telecommunications and Information Council of Ministers.
He has served as a Minister of Communications and Information Technology of Egypt for seven years. And he is currently on the Board of the National Telecom Regulatory Authority of Egypt. Please join me in welcoming my brother, Tarek Kamel.
>> TAREK KAMEL: Thank you, my brother, for this kind introduction. Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. As I said yesterday in another panel, I'm so delighted to be among my friends and my colleagues and many leading figures from Africa and outside Africa in this IGF. It gives me a feeling, really, of being back home to the global community, interacting with them, not just sitting there on a high level podium for an opening session and just having to disappear, but I'm there, and I'm interacting, and I'm trying to reengage again.
And again, as I have mentioned, this brings me back 20 years back, and brings all the nice memories up that we have been doing together in Africa. Many people in this room, among them, (mentioning names) from South Africa and many leading figures have worked since 1992, 1993 on bringing basic connectivity to Africa.
This was our dream. This was our challenge, and we took it step‑by‑step since the first birds of feather meeting you remember in 1995, African birds of feather meeting back in 1995 in Hawaii. There we have established our first world group, and we were very happy with this first world group. I just have an email list, talking to each other and finding each other, identifying each other. And whenever any one of us could identify in another African countries, someone who's ready to contribute, who's ready to lead, who's ready to join us in our dream and our aspirations, he was added to the list, introduced very humble to the others, irrespective whether is coming from government, is coming from business, is coming from NGO. As I mentioned a wonderful spirit of a bottom‑up approach that brought us along this long journey together and made really the foundation of the Internet in Africa.
And we were so happy when we could ping Nigeria, Egypt, Iran. This is a dream that they are online and we can ping them and that we are able to connect back to them. But I'm asking, and now those days, those shakers and movers to be up to our new responsibility that I see ahead of us.
We still have a long way to go together.
And we still need access to knowledge. It's not any more basic connectivity. Basic connectivity is being achieved.
There is definitely a lot to do in the rural areas and prices and reducing prices, but I think we have a big mandate of leading, really, the African continent, and this team is really capable of doing that, due to its consistency, due to its understanding, common understanding, leading Africa to access to knowledge. And this is not a lecture anymore, because it is very clear. And I realize that also doing the work in my government that Internet infrastructure and local content issues are the basic foundation for a sustainable microeconomic system. And if we want this continent really to be integrated in the global economy, we need to develop the Internet infrastructure further. And we need definitely to invest more and more in local content.
There has been a study that I happen to see between OECD and the ISOC, and as well the UNSCO that deals with the push in economic bases related to Internet infrastructure and local content. And again, as I am saying this is highly related to GDP gross. It has an impact on economy. We need to tackle it as a strategic issues. This is not any more just the technical issues of pinging that some people from the academia or the business sector or NGOs are happy and about to do. No. This is a future of a whole continent, a future of a whole generation, a continent where 50 to 60% are under the age of 30, on the average. A continent that can bring the next billion users to the Internet within the next 10 to 15 or 20 years.
A continent that will contribute more and more to the global economy ‑‑ economic growth, and we definitely have our responsibility and our share to work on that.
By the way, this study is available online at the OECD site and it included Kenya and Egypt as examples from the African continent.
It has other countries from other places in the world, as well. And it's a clear analysis that showed that there is a very clear relation between international Internet infrastructure, its pricing, the local domestic Internet infrastructure, its pricing for Broadband, the development of local content, and as well, the development of local infrastructure.
And we ought to have economic measures with which we are able really to measure and to compare and to follow up and to trace the growth in those various different relations.
And local content, my dear friends, is not anymore as I said, just something that is considered a luxury, it is important for social development, for the economic reform. And it is also very important, as well, for a preservation of cultural heritage of this continent, our beloved continent, our languages, our heritage, our roots, all this needs investment in local continue tent and infrastructure, otherwise we will be just thinking abroad. And it is good definitely to have communication with the rest of the world, we appreciate that our young generation learns about languages but that's not enough. They need to know about their own roots as well, their own languages, their own cultures and this will happen only with robust Internet exchanges on a local level. Affordable prices, and as well, a base that connects Africa together on a regional level, on a very efficient way.
Connectivity is important, but quality and affordability as well is highly important.
So I see that we need really within the next couple of months to conduct a further study on the analysis of the economic impact of interconnectivity in Africa in order really to foster the investors to invest more in that and to connect Africa with the rest of the world more and more.
I see definitely very promising projects for international inter connectivity from SEACOM from Telecom Egypt, and other players in South Africa and west Africa, but I think that is not enough. We need also to bring on the table I'm saying it everywhere. Someone did not agree with me but I will still repeat, I still see that the overall business model that handles Internet connectivity is unfair. The bigger coast to coast review is carried by the developing world, is carried by the African countries. We pay the links, the high cost links to connect to the U.S. backbones and to the European back bones, while it is being used in both directions. And this is a significant component of the over all cost of Internet connectivity. This should be kept ‑‑ this should be ‑‑ I mean taken or buried by both partners. Similar as it was in the old telephony, it was buried by two partners. They're saying sometimes, fine. We invest in U.S. backbones and European backbones and you need to connect to it. But we have also our local content and we want to first set it further on.
So I think we need to share more and more the cost of the international ‑‑ international costs.
On a local level we need liberalization, we need to force the competition, because still national backbones are very expensive by our national Telecom operators and sometimes unfortunately more expensive than the international links.
My last point is related to cross‑border communication and infrastructure. I think this is a growing business, also in Africa, and we need clearly to have overall guidelines for regulation of cross‑border communication and infrastructure. I need it even in my own country where we had at some point in time troubles of allowing international cables to go with very low cost and with very similar and straightforward licensing procedure.
So having a guideline that is endorsed maybe by the international telephone communication union and by the African Union for cross‑border infrastructure for international cables and submarine cables crossing the border even if they are not serving the local country is highly important and is something that I am willing to share my experiences, positive and negative experiences in that.
By this introduction, ladies and gentlemen, I hope that I have contributed a bit to the conversation, and thank you for inviting me, Adiel and me, for this panel again and look forward to the rest of the discussion. Thank you.
>> DR. NII QUAYNOR: Thank you very much. As you can see, experience has a way of bringing many different things together for the common interests, and I really appreciate the ‑‑ of the visions you made about the economy, I also appreciate the priority that is access to knowledge that we need to work on, and, of course, most important, it should be local and become global.
So we need to find a way to marry these things.
Thank you very much for this very useful intervention.
I think next on the panel to share initial viewpoints is one that has very recently become quite close to me in our work in ‑‑ related to domain names and so forth. However, he has experience in a different area on projects to Internet Africa from the African Union. I have in mind this gentleman, and he is head of the newly formed Information Site Division in the African Union Commission. His portfolio includes the development at the continental level of telecommunications, ICT, postal and broadcasting service and applications. And he will discuss many things, including the program for infrastructure development in Africa, as well as the projects in Africa. So please join me in welcoming him.
>> THE PANELIST: Thank you. In the you'd after you start with somebody who is very brilliant you say sometimes it is very hard to follow. That's indeed it is very hard to follow Dr. Tarek after making ‑‑ after having made such a brilliant presentation. And just for the history, Dr. Tarek was for two terms which is actually four years, the chairman of the African Union Commission conference of ministers in charge of telecommunication and information technologies. And during his chairmanship we have to adopt one of the very famous things which is the African Union reference for the harmonization of policy regulations in Africa. And that stands today as a Bible for African Union Commission to undertake actually the activities in complementing the projects in Africa. Thank you, Tarek, and again, thank you very much for the contributions.
Now, again, what I would like to talk about, I told you that the African Union initiatives are actually very wide and very broad. And I wouldn't ‑‑ 15‑minute session would not allow me to go. So I will be literally flying over that due to the time constraint. However, I would just like to mention two things very important.
One is the fact that the African Union vision, political vision in the economical vision is to interconnect to the continent and for its unity.
In concrete term with regard to the ICT we have three major axis we are working on. One is to interconnect all capital cities by the terrestrial Broadband. This is actually meeting the Africa connect goal number one.
Second is to connect all African cities to the SEACOM through at least two different infrastructure in order to have the resilient network.
And third, to implement as much as possible the Internet exchange point in order to trigger and to favor the inter‑African traffic and reduce the bills we are paying outside of the continent evaluated above 600 million a year we are paying outside the continent to intercommunicate between us.
Having this mind ‑‑ in mind, the African Union, during which a meeting in 2008 added a reference framework to build a master plan for Africa in term of Broadband connectivities axis around the elements I have already proposed.
And then the African development bank, the MPCA at that time and the African Union Commission decided to have a broad program called program for infrastructure development in Africa.
It is now a study of 8 million Euro that is being carried out by people from Africa and Europe. It has put in place an ICT master plan up to 2013 with a short, medium and long‑term programs. The study is finalized into ‑‑ will be finalized in two days actually. We are starting the first validation workshop in Nairobi here, and then followed by other one in the central north end and Central Africa. And the study will be submitted in 2012. And after that the ADB, African development bank and African Union and MPCA will start to implement those projects.
We are aiming at having a full map of Africa where we have to put what kind of infrastructure and where we have to put it and so on. But meanwhile we have started the issue with regard to the Internet exchange points. And there is a project called axis. This is now actually being implemented also. It is ‑‑ the project aims, actually at strengthening national programs for the development of regional Internet exchange points. The project is being implemented with the support of the European Union Africa trust fund.
It will be ‑‑ it will be ‑‑ it will contribute to the optimization and efficiency in the handling of national Internet traffic and existing exchanges between Africa, inter‑African via hopes that will be implemented.
The other project that we are actually working on will be the Indian project. It is what I would call the pan Africa project. It's a 100 million and fiber optics connecting the 53 African countries to provide communication between the head of states and a voice and conference services of the.
The other last project I will be actually mentioning to you will be the Africa connect. It is 1.8 million Euro project aiming at connecting national connections with infrastructure.
This is just a small in the main project that are actually being implemented by the African Union. There is many interconnecting the continent. I will not go over them. But at this point of time I will stop here, expecting that I will be able to answer you more on those initiative at the end of the conference.
Thank you very much.
>> DR. NII QUAYNOR: Let's express our appreciation.
>> DR. NII QUAYNOR: I am pleased to see that there are programs in place to interconnect the cities and it reinforces the message from the earlier speaker Dr. Tarek. And you have also now brought in other points as the mechanism of keeping the traffic local, there by reducing costs.
So on the whole it seems like there are some programs in place. But we'll get to discussing how we can accelerate those and adopt it through our own private sector. So we'll get to that.
Thank you very much.
The next is ‑‑ we have a need to understand the issues of Harmonization of various policies in the region, and doctor Edmund Katiti who is the Acting Head of NEPAD program agency which is a new agency. He holds a PhD in telecommunications, systems engineering from the University of access in the UK. So join me in welcoming Edmund Katiti.
>> DR. EDMUND KATITI: Thank you, Chair. I want to start by saying that the NEPAD planning and coordinating agency has been integrated into the structures and processes of the African Union as the technical body of the African Union.
So we work very closely with the new information society division of the African Union Commission. While the NEPAD agency is best in south Africa. But the ICT task team within the NEPAD agency was what was previously the e‑Africa Commission which was set up by African minister's of ITC to try and drive the development of ICTs across the continent.
It later became part of NEPAD. Did, the NEPAD e‑Africa Commission then got integrated into the agency fully at the time that the NEPAD agency was being integrated into the African Union.
So in the Broadband area we've been working on bridging the infrastructure digital divide following the same connect Africa principle of ensuring that every African capital is connected to its neighboring capital through Broadband fiber. And then linking the whole of Africa to the rest of the world through submarine cables.
To do this, we had to develop an enabling environment which is quite close in many respects with the African Union reference framework and the different guidelines, regulations and frameworks that have been developed in the various region or economic communities.
So what we are doing at the moment in some respects with the help of institutions like the international telecommunication union through its HIPSA project, that stands for harmonization of ITC policies in subSaharan Africa is to try not to confuse our government when we talk about one set of guidelines, talk about the protocol and so on.
So within the e‑Africa Commission we developed a policy and regulatory framework for the development of the Continental cross‑border network that would link up African countries. And this was developed because of finding restrictions among 14 countries in Eastern and southern Africa and sighted in the protocol.
We are now working with the various region economic commune accounts on ‑‑ with the harmonization process to ensure that these non‑discriminatory, open access principles are accepted across the continent, so that the work of building the cross‑border infrastructures are eased.
But why are we concerned about building the cross‑border cable submarine networks. It is because we want to be sure that Africa has abundant, reliable, always on and affordable communication systems.
It is then that Africa can compete with other parts of the world, can start to meaning fully participate in the information society and knowledge economy.
Now, one way of doing that, as the previous speakers have indicated, is to ensure that we keep African traffic within Africa. It doesn't need to go to other continents before it comes back.
And in the process, we lose a lot of money through transit fees. So if we can build networks that keep African traffic within Africa, there will be a lot of savings. We will free up some of the capacity that is available in the submarine cables and so on, to bring us the traffic that is not already within Africa.
And part of the policies is to ensure that we maximize existing Broadband where it is available at present. Whether this Broadband has been developed by Telecom companies or has been developed by power line companies and other gas pipelines, and so on, we try to bring it in and build networks so that we can connect Africa.
And our appeal is to encourage more African entities to corporate with us, to work together so that we can create special purposes that we realize the dream of Africa. I thank you.
>> DR. NII QUAYNOR: Thank you very much, Edmund.
As you can see, he is throwing in a new concept, open access. I didn't do that. He says keep the African traffic local and he says we should harmonize and create an environment that will do that.
He's also given another new, interesting thing, encourage more African participation by creating special vehicle mechanisms for that. So let ‑‑ I thank you very much for bringing those subjects into discussion.
So now we're going to move on to what is actually happening.
And we are very pleased to have Julius Opio of SEACOM and he is the original head of SEACOM for east and North Africa and they provide Broadband solutions in southern Africa and to Europe and Asia. And he will be relating SEACOM's experience in connecting the region. Welcome, sir.
>> JULIUS OPIO: Thank you, Chair. I will quickly take you through what our experience has been in the last two years or so in bringing connectivity to the East Coast of Africa. What we have experienced has been a significant growth in terms of Internet users in Africa. In the last ten years you've noticed that there has been a growth of about ‑‑ from about six to Internet users and that growth has been in the last 2 to 3 years. The last month connectivity has been upgraded. Mobile operators are moving from 2.5G to 3G. And now some countries in Africa or even considering deploying 4G networks. And all this has been because of the Broadband capacity that is currently available.
Another thing that we've been able to experience is Internet bandwidth, prices have dramatically come down. And this is because there's been a significant shift from satellite connectivity to fiber network connectivity in Africa.
So satellite connect ‑‑ satellite is no longer king in Africa anymore. And we're seeing more usage going towards fiber connectivity.
And then there's also as a result of many cable companies coming into Africa, diversity is starting to be built within Africa. And as a result of this resiliency is also improving.
Another interesting area as regards the governments. What we've noted is that there are more interest. Look at most budgets, governments are now looking to getting more funds into ICT. They have pumped in about $4 million to build national fiber backbone infrastructure.
So, for example, east Africa, the East African communities trying to come up with a network, whereby they will be able to connect. What I'm talking about this community I'm referring to various ones that tend to link their cables lowering the cost of communication by increasing the speed of Internet capacity. This is now possible because of the landing of SEACOM and other cable companies. The government has taken efforts to connect land locked countries within the region.
Now, if you look at the map of SEACOM what we are trying to achieve is our objective was to connect the East Coast of Africa and then connect it to the and North America, but we are also seeing that we are building partnerships with back hold providers to try and connect land locked country inside Africa if you look at our focus it's mostly toward East Coast. But now we have built partnerships going into the West Coast. Nigeria has been an area for us to provide connectivity.
In regards to the market, what has been happening because of Broadband, we've seen communication, a communication evolution whereby there is significant shift from 3G. Now we're going into 4G usage. The Internet has changed also. Before it was just a worldwide web but now we are seeing intelligent applications being used on the Internet. So we are seeing phone applications, social sites coming up and also transactional content being used on the Internet because of Broadband capacity.
But also in terms of devices we are seeing more use ‑‑ utilization of mobile devices that are what I call a dumb phone to a Smartphone. Users are now using the mobile devices as their main way to connect into the Internet. Unlike five years ago whereby the main device was desktop computer.
Then in terms of regulation, we've seen governments, regulatory authorities in most countries in Africa or now being more accessible and giving out ‑‑ and giving out more operator licenses when it comes to ICT.
An area of interest for us in SEACOM is education so we will be able to give out better rates to education. We have been able to do that with over 75 in the region. Now, our policy is that we should try and make education more affordable and accessible by providing ICT connectivity, Internet connectivity through ICT initiatives. So what we've done is that we have built networks with the entrants in African now they are able to connect to Europe. And as a result of this we've seen a dramatic drop on reduction of Internet ‑‑ on Internet connectivity costs and such sectors of education in the region.
In terms of future opportunities, and this is mainly looking from a business angle, we've seen 31st a tendency now for many companies in Africa looking into content management, this cloud‑computing, cloud‑computing means that we are able to have smart, intelligent application systems sitting on the Internet and shared across a wide range of users across the world.
Then we also have data center opportunities that have come up, business process outsourcing. Governments are now considering and coming up with e‑strategies in the governments, in their plans, and this is now being rolled out to the benefits of the respective citizens. And we've seen e‑help, e‑learning and e‑commerce opportunities dramatically being taken up.
A good example for e‑commerce is that we've seen developed in Nairobi has tended to be a hub for many companies that like to invest in the region. So it ‑‑ as a result of Broadband connectivity.
In terms of the challenges we are faced with, when it comes to deploying connectivity in Africa, what you have experienced one area needs to be addressed is cross‑border regulation challenges, especially when it comes to no man's land.
What happens is because of no man's land is in no government, no country, we have to delegate responsibility. Sometimes this is a challenge because sometimes you have to agree on goodwill whereby an operator says, okay, fine, in our capacity, we will deliver capacity across no man's land to the next country. So that has been an area of challenge paragraph and then another thing is operators a cross‑countries do not have similar commercial arrangements and SLAs, hence, service delivery is affected. So much as our service delivery could be 99% but the further you go inland into Africa, the service delivery is diluted.
And then another area that we think we should also consider looking into is the standardization and regulation of connectivity. We are currently pushing for it but we have fiber network infrastructure being shared. What we've experienced is that all our back hole partners want to deploy their own networks. So we are asking if it is possible for them to come together, to regulate everybody and see whether infrastructure can be share is there and as a result bring down the cost for connectivity. And another area is also fiber networks deployment. How do we connect country to country, town to town, and also urban to rural. What is happening in the private sector we all focused on urban and very few of us would like to go into rural. So the question is what do we need to do to generate connectivity in the rural areas?
So in a nutshell I think due to lack of time I'll just quickly flip through the main points that we've experienced so far in the region.
>> DR. NII QUAYNOR: Thank you very much.
>> DR. NII QUAYNOR: And I think we should give him a very special hand now, I'll tell you the reason why. Let's give it.
>> DR. NII QUAYNOR: You know he is a good businessman. And that's ‑‑ he says the multi‑cable is creating competition for him, it creates a more rye resilient network for him, see? Which means that he sees it as adding value. And I think I really like to comment on that. And I'm glad that I got that view point from you.
We appreciate that you are addressed the cross‑border issues, and you recognize some rule for governments in stimulating those things. So thank you very much.
Yeah. We'll move on to the next activity we have, and this is will be shared by Muriuki Murethi and he is the CEO of Summit Strategies Ltd and he has experience in development and consulting in Africa he is pursuing his PhD on the topic of harmonization of ICT policies and strategies. He has traveled to many countries in Africa on consultancy requirements, in the process he has acquired special insights into these issues, in particular, the status of ICT. He will address the issues specifically on Cross‑border interconnection policy dynamics. Let's welcome.
>> MURIUKI MURETHI: Thank you very much, for the introduction of the good afternoon, all of you. I can see a lot of my friend and those who were not my friends before will become my friends after this. And I'm looking forward to that.
>> MURIUKI MURETHI: Now, capacity is now available along our coastal line, the whole of Africa. For a long time the East Coast was the only dark part in the world. Courtesy of what my friend has done, now we are connected. Tanzania, Kenya, Somalia, we are now connected. So we have fibers stringing around the continent and that is good.
This comes in the wake of the vision this continent has had for a long time to interconnect all our countries and all our capitals as was ably mentioned by my colleague, and this goes back if we look at the history as far back as 1996 when Africans working with the agencies convened and came up with African information society initiative. And the dream of that was within 15 years, by 2010, all the capitals of this continent will be interconnected. And in fact go down to the villages.
2010 has come, but I doubt whether we have been able to achieve that vision.
However, it is still very critical. 2007 we had the leaders meeting and came up with the interconnect. Again we had the same vision and also we had the reference framework. And I'm happy that our friend is here who also supported the development of this.
So all these are initiatives for us to to achieve this goal.
Now we have the fiber.
>> DR. TAREK KAMEL: Julius has mentioned about the initiative of SEACOM to go inland of the now, the latest research indicates that with all the effort that we have put in place, and if we complete what is being planned, we'll be able to get 46% of our citizens, is about 388 million Africans, within 45 kilometers of fiber. So we still have a lot of work to do. We still have 54% of our colleagues in Africa benefiting from fiber. And the challenge of this is as we go further into the interior.
The question of connectivity. Cross‑border connectivity.
Now, working with the UNECA is to do research to look at whatever issues that prevent us being able to address the issues of cross‑border connectivity. This research was carried out two years ago. I looked at Eastern African countries. And so we have come up with ‑‑ out of the research we found four areas that we have to address for at last to real loses the vision.
These four areas, one is political. There are political issues that we have to address.
We also have to address as point number two, regulatory and ICT policy issues.
There are technical issues that have to be addressed and some of them were mentioned by Julius talking about the SLAs as we go inland. And also, it must also make business sense.
So if you look at the political issues, one of the things we found in our study is that it is very critical that we address cross‑border political issues, relationships.
If we have political issues across the countries then we cannot even start talking about building fiber. We cannot talking about connectivity across the boards.
We also saw cases whereby the internal conflict of one country is so bad that it also affects the ability the for the operators to build the necessary infrastructure. And if it is one of the countries where we need to go across that country to the other country it means we are already locked out even before we start.
So politics plays a big role.
We also saw cases whereby countries want to assert their own sovereignty. As they do this, they forget that they have ‑‑ they are part of a group or village and they have to work with others, other countries, but by citing this sovereignty the inference, the cross‑border connectivity and also are affecting the neighboring countries.
We also saw some cases where countries impose taxes and these taxes will have an effect on the cost of those services across the other country.
And then, of course, in some countries we have cases whereby the infrastructure is so poor that even when we talk about a cross‑Africa connectivity, it has to be very expensive and has to be a lot of work for that infrastructure.
Technical part, part of it has been mentioned by Julius, I want to mention it, but the issue here is that we need to think about cross‑border technology choices that is acceptable by both parties, and that the countries, themselves have got the capacity, the countries sometimes do not have the capacity to implement and support some of these networks.
At regulatory level and the policy issues, we've found cases whereby the national regulatory framework is inhibiting for development of competitive infrastructure.
There was no mechanism in some countries. In most of the countries that could stimulate cross‑border relationships, cross‑border development of connectivity links, and then some countries are still struggling with reform, not yet complete. And, of course, think about licensing. For you to appoint across the other country you need authorization. Requires a license.
Do we have mechanisms where you as an operator, like Julius, for example, would be given a license to cut across many countries? The operator will have to get licenses in every country as you go, and even in a case of East African community we are still struggling with that.
Finally, one point before is that even as we address the political issues, we address the technical issues, and we also address the cases of regulatory framework, it must still make business sense for the operators to do business of cross‑border.
And so, the issue arose, are markets viable? Are those cross‑border markets we're talking about, are they viable? And so that was the first thing that stimulated the development of cross‑border connectivity.
And in this case we are talking about demand at regional level, at subregional level. And also, what is a business environment? How long do I take to get the licensing? How long do I take to go through all of the processes, to start?
And so we need to address those four issues, for last we realize the beautiful, beautiful vision that we have put for ourselves as African information society initiative, the African connect, the reference framework done by Dr. Tarek, we need to think about how we are going to address all those issues.
But one thing I am happy is that there are a lot of initiatives at the political level and the business level, we have seen some of the operators doing that.
And then specifically, EU, ITU, there's been a lot of initiatives around it. We also have the private sector also trying their own.
And hopefully through this we are not only going to do cross‑border activity but we are also going to bring the Broadband closer to the 54% who are still very far away from that use of fiber that we want for getting our African brothers and sisters into the group or village.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
>> DR. NII QUAYNOR: You know, he always surprises me. And so I must just comment.
The observation is correct. If you don't have the political environment in a good form, we can't do too much.
On the other hand, he also reminds us that we kept trying. We kept trying. And I think that's the real spirit. Not so much the vision. The vision is to get me moving. So I'm just so glad that you've put these two difficult issues together. And that is my observation.
Now, we are moving on to the last of the initial comments. And it's a little different, but it's also addressing the issue raised very early by Dr. Tarek Kamel which is addressing the issue of content. Anyway, we have with us Andrew Austin. He is a chief technology officer of the tertiary education network of South Africa and the alliance. The alliance is the regional research and education network for Eastern and southern Africa. And he'll be addressing the issue of the project and how it has been helping Africa.
You have the floor. Let's welcome.
>> THE PANELIST: Many thanks. Well, all, thank you very much for having me here today. It's great to be back up in Africa. I always enjoy my travels around Africa, and I find such warm and friendly people here. And I really find that every time I'm at one of these conferences, I learn so much from the people that I spend so much time with.
And, you know, when we look at the market as it is today, particularly in academia, I think that that becomes key. We have a lot to learn from each other, but we need the communications to do it.
Now, one of the problems that I've seen in the past is, yes, coming from South Africa we've got fairly good infrastructure ten gig network, in fact, 700 gig network, international bandwidth, but when it comes to dealing with the rest of Africa the connectivity suddenly disappears. There is a very, very low band width crossing the border. And this is something that has to be fixed. I know that the person sitting over there from the Kenyan network, we've been talking for a long, long time about connecting Kenya to South Africa via an undersea route to stop the traffic going by Europe. The economics of it though, who's going to pay for it, and what traffic is there going to be on the circuit.
So at the end of the day you've got to find a way to connect the countries in Africa, but you've got to make it business Safe Harbor sensible to do so. And that was something that I picked up on fairly clearly here, is that it's got to be business‑sensible to do cross‑border circuits in African interconnections, now, we've all been talking about creating content on the continent. This is so important because if you don't have it you won't be able to be viable to build a cross‑border circuit. Let's face it, we talk about the fact that as Africa we pay for the circuits coming from Europe and going to Europe.
The fact is that Africa is still very much an eyeball continent. We pull traffic towards us. We are not feeding traffic out.
And that's kind of bizarre, considering how empty our outbound pipes sit. If you look at an average Internet pipe into Africa, you're probably doing a 5 to 1 inbound to outbound ratio. Who is going to pay for that? The guy who's pulling the data across it. And so this is why it becomes so important to generate content.
To generate content, however, you need a very wide base of people. And the academic sector has the facilities to generate masses of content. Look at the radio in South Africa, I see them streaming to the Netherlands for academic purpose when they're doing experiments. $48 at a time, 1.2 giga bit a second flat traffic and they run that for 48 hours at a time every couple of months.
The S KA, if it's awarded to Africa, it will generate hundreds of gigs of capacity and traffic and data that's got to go outside.
At that point we've got the content.
But, again, this requires more than just one country and one cross‑border circuit. It requires the inland countries to have the access, look at the SKA, the SKA goes up from South Africa, parts of it into our bordering countries, some of which are land locked. They're going to need connectivity back into South Africa, and so with all of that in mind, the alliance was formed as an alliance of African academic networks that got together and decided to cooperate in a regional network similar to the networks in Europe which interconnect the end reins and allow the end reins to also help each other.
In that alliance there was then a project formed called Africa connect which the European Union and the European Commission very kindly agreed to fund. Well, they're funding 80% of it to the tune of about 12 million Euros, 3 million Euros is coming back.
Out of Africa from the end reins themselves, and that project is there to build cross‑border connectivity.
That's all that we're trying to do is connect the end reins. We're not building them within that project. We are connecting them. The objective for that is that when we look at countries like Malawi and Rwanda and Uganda, they can also get access to the content on the alliance network and cheap international connectivity.
Now, I can tell you 15 million Euros might sound like a lot of money. As we're discovering, 15 million Euros, it's not a huge amount of money. It doesn't go terribly far.
And the other thing is, when you go out and you ask for proposals and say, guys, we're putting out this tender. Respond. Guess what? You might get one limited group of operators that respond, but there are vast numbers that will look at this, take one look at your budget and go, not even going to answer ‑‑ not even going to come and ask for the tender document and show an interest in it. They don't even ask.
So there is ‑‑ there is almost a ‑‑ it is a huge challenge to get the providers out there to come and respond.
And I'm appealing to every provider. There is a general notice out: Respond to it. We want to do business with you. But the business case has to be right.
We understand that.
And what I'm saying is, this is not an easy road going ahead. But it's an important one, and the simple fact is that as you build the cross‑border circuits the traffic levels do increase.
I'll give you an example.
One of the things that tenet does as an academic network to reduce our transit cost is we appear with everybody. We deliberately push as much content on to the market as we possibly can because it keeps us peered, it keeps us inter connected and as such it drives down our transit costs.
Now, because the network has masses of capacity and masses of bandwidth and we have masses of content we are pushing out loads of content, and I can watch where that content is going to.
I remember looking at the traffic levels in Zimbabwe and in Namibia and for certain types of content. And then we started pushing to their upstream provider who did have traffic connectivity. The traffic levels on certain types of interactive content largely hosted by our favorite search provider have gone up in the region of anywhere between 50 and 300%, overnight, at no cost increase.
I see providers starting to offer promotions in South Africa for free access to certain content with their own bullet as part of data capping, because the content is local.
But the moment that the content is local and the cross‑border circuits are there, and I need to stress that, the circuits have to be there, the costs will come down.
So you're in a Catch‑22. You've got to have the circuits, you've got to have the contents to make the circuits viable.
And it is a Catch‑22.
So somewhere the initiative has to come.
And so, yeah. That's kind of what we are doing with the net. Trying to build a network that connects 15 countries in Africa. We've had some success. There are indications that there are fiber networks in the ground. It's now a matter of getting access to them.
There is fiber there. Do not let anyone tell you the fiber does not exist. I've seen the maps. The fiber exists going from South Africa from Zimbabwe, into Kenya, Uganda, it is there. It is in the ground. It is now up to the operators to give us access to that fiber at a reasonable price.
>> DR. NII QUAYNOR: Thank you. (Speaking in a language other than English.)
I think the relation is very interesting and we appreciate the role of academic networks in contributing to the contents, and, therefore, to start the cycle of development in that area.
Okay. I think we've now reached the point where now it's you in the audience, and you've heard the different viewpoints from the vision all the way to the implementation, including the policies use we have to address.
So it's up to you to raise some questions paragraph so the floor is open. It's yours. Yes, Chris? I'll Take five. So don't worry.
>> THE PARTICIPANT: Chris from ISOC.
Thanks to the panel. That was a really good, detailed discussion. And my question to Julius, some of the war stories in cross‑borders, getting across, can you share any of those? Thank you.
>> DR. NII QUAYNOR: Not yet. I'll take a few more. Yes, ma'am. If you can just mention your name so I can have a sense.
>> THE PARTICIPANT: (Off‑mic) I'm from the network for an informal education institutions. And my question and my concern is about access to Internet, specifically for, you know, the low income society. Because when you are setting up the program you are providing basic education to children in the slums. And what you are doing is that you are using video conferencing and connecting to about 16 centers across the slums in Nairobi.
One of the challenge that, you know, we faced when we went to the ISP providers and asked them for a solution were like, oh, account slum people afford to pay for the Internet? You know?
And, you know, we kept on going from one provider to another, to another, until we got to one that was about to give us a solution, but still it's very, very expensive. And we are looking for ways and hoping that it would be made, you know, cheaper by the end of the day.
Again, the question of content is still another challenge, because, you know, as a on the issue of content at that particular level, basic level, you know, we still find that, you know, it's quite expensive to ‑‑ to get content from outside. And that gives us a challenge to be able to generate local content.
A challenge to our government, again, because as Minister of education, in particular the most embraced technology and be able to reduce content and digitize it for purpose of being utilized I institutions or organizations that are coming up with ‑‑ the initiatives that are going to provide education for all.
Those are my concern.
And as we'll talk about infrastructure, I think it has to go hand‑in‑hand with the usage. How do we make as many people as possible use their infrastructure that we are putting across? Thank you.
>> DR. NII QUAYNOR: Yeah.
>> THE PARTICIPANT: My name is (inaudible) from Zambia. I work in southern Africa. My question is to Muriuki Murethi and Dr. Edmund Katiti. I'm worried about the 54% we are talking about in terms of access. And we are talking about long‑term strategy, this goal. What are the short‑term measures that you think you may comment? And on the side of Edmund Katiti especially on the HIPSA, what is really this program entails in terms of policy harmonization and development in terms of infrastructure and so on?
>> Female Voice: We do have a question from the remote participants from the head of Cameroon. Encourage countries of the subregions to commit to join together to build their interaction that they do not only have to make declarations at the summits and meetings, for example, at the output of this IGF two neighboring countries can take commitment of their interaction. (Name).
>> THE PARTICIPANT: (Name) from Kenya. Maybe a comment, maybe a question. I see ‑‑ I see that the business case is the real problem with the traffic. As I listen to many of the initiatives, it is true that we don't really have a strong initiative on content development? Because if you develop content, right now we are interconnected, even if we interconnect through London, we are interconnected. So if we just focus on content, then the business case will just come up.
Is that the case? Is that the way the panel see it?
>> DR. NII QUAYNOR: I would like any of my ‑‑ I'll come back. I would like my panelists to respond but I will let all of them choose to make any comment that they see fit related to the subject. But I'll just ‑‑ want to start with Julius, because his name was mentioned first. So please go ahead.
>> JULIUS OPIO: Thank you, Chair. I think the question was in regards to the cross‑border stories and horror stories, what we've experienced. It's very interesting in the sense that sometimes what happens is we are able to get our partners to deliver capacity at the border point. What we know is that some of our countries have what you call no man's land, whereby it's about 800 meters to let's say a kilometer. So what normally happens is we have to go into long‑term negotiations. The operators from both countries, and try and see how we can convince either party from one side to do the cross ‑‑ the no man's land portion. Okay? And create across to the other country.
What normally happens, it looks very simple technically but from a government point of view it's complicated.
So when you have regulatory organizations in each and every government or country coming up with regulations you will find that that part of the border has not been addressed.
So they have to go back and get approvals from their respective governments, and that takes time. And this no man's land is quite tricky from a business point of view in terms of risk. How do you make sure that whatever you invest in there is insured. In case of an outage which country is supposed to go and address the outage at the no man's land. So our experience has been more of a learning experience is how I'll put it.
I'm in East Africa. If you look at the Kenya Ghana situation it has been quite successful, if you look at Uganda Rwanda that has been okay. In terms of solving the issue, it's something if we could all come up with a solution and address it in terms ‑‑ from a policy perspective.
And when it comes to microwave connectivities there is no issue. It is really straightforward. So that has been my experience.
>> THE PANELIST: Just to supplement what has been said, one of the component actually he is talking will be all bundled infrastructure. And the way that we see any link posed it's part of the original communications to integrate the regions of the country as identified as such must have a protocol for the transcript responding ownership, governance and so on with regard to that infrastructure. That is crucial for interconnecting Africa.
>> DR. NII QUAYNOR: Edmund.
>> DR. EDMUND KATITI: Thanks. I was asked for a specific question on what is HIPSA.
HIPSA is an African Union project implemented with the help of the international telecommunication union as technical body. And it is to do with Harmonization of ICT policies. I think a good example is in the region they last year came up with guidelines for landing submarine cables.
We do not have to go through the same process in other regions. We can learn from that experience and help the other regions adopt similar guidelines or regulations.
So the part one of HIPSA has ended, and we have requested the European Union to extend the project HIPSA, too, so we can get some more done with this Harmonization business.
>> DR. NII QUAYNOR: Okay, go ahead.
>> THE PANELIST: Just to again to supplement this regard to the HIPSA. Since we do have the regions, the guideline for the policy and regulation in the regions, and at the continental level HIPSA will mainly ‑‑ one of those is to help the countries transpose from region to region with regard to the specific topic on the Harmonization of policy and regulations in the continent.
>> DR. NII QUAYNOR: (Name).
>> THE PANELIST: So, for the 54% who are very far away from the fiber, their mission is to address that. I talked about four factors that we found as such that are critical for this to be successful. I talked about political, regulatory, technical, and business.
As you all agree with me, political is even outside the scope of the ICT people. And when a government says we are not going to liberate the telecommunications sector, and you know the country's like that, then that is outside the purview of what we as people in the telecommunications sector can do. Perhaps Dr. Tarek Kamel can tell us a bit more. But the country is not going to go through loops to open up the market, to bring up competition, to allow for competition, it is more or less very, very difficult to talk about, very, very to difficult to talk about measures. Regulatory. The government must make a position to open up the market and once that happens then we are left about technical and business and though those ones, there are ways to go around it. For example, should it be a problem of technology, we can talk about instead of the fiber, there are various regions that would be able to take to the people we need to serve. When you talk about the business case there are cases whereby the governments have said we are putting out of the telecommunication sector, we want the private sector to come in. And the private sector have come in with a number of prayers, but this private sector have gone to the capitals, they have gone to the cities, and they have forgotten our brothers, sisters, in the rural areas.
So what has happened, this same marginalization before as by the private sector of the and so what we are seeing is that in such a case some governments have gone back and said we want the private sector to do business but now we are realizing they are not able to ‑‑ they are not addressing that ‑‑ that team, that ‑‑ the good for people in the rural areas.
And so a country like Kenya, the government has gone out to the rural areas and build fiber which was mentioned by Julius, national optic fiber, about 5,000 kilometers and is doing that. So there are a number of interventions the government can do when the first issue of political and regulatory are addressed.
In terms of business, we need a business case. And I would like to insist all of the ‑‑ or suggest that content is king. Content is one major driver to define the use value. And once you define the use value, then the business case is there. Thank you.
>> THE PANELIST: I'd just like to comment on the content is king issue, as well as the business case.
Merely as you commented we are already connected, but I want to tell you a story. There's an ST M1 that runs from Kenya to South Africa, currently has no traffic on it. It did at one point. When a Kenyan operator did a deal with a South African operator to reach Johannesburg Internet exchange and feed the route to there and vice versa, the South African operator says, okay, well, we're going to charge you a relatively low amount for the local loop back from the data center where that runs to the Johannesburg Internet exchange. But if we feed you all of the content from ‑‑ through the Johannesburg Internet exchange including what is on the tenet network you will not have enough. And they said we will give 50 meg to this. We turned it up, that saturated in 4.5 minutes. Completely totally saturated. At that point the Kenyan operator in concern who ran it said: Okay, we acknowledge we can get content from South Africa, but if we go to the London Internet exchange because of the lack of the local loop and because of the fact that the circle itself terminates in the data center where the London exchange is it's not economically viable to get it from South Africa. Thanks, but no thanks, and they turned it off. And as a result the 78‑millisecond latency path to South Africa that did exist at that point which should have helped promote the business case is now back up to the four a milliseconds that we see today between South African networks and Kenyan networks. And when I say that the difference if price was minimal, you're talking two, three dollars a megabit, yes, that's not a lot of money when you're saving on half your latency and doubling your user experience. Your business case has to come from more than just your random sense. Yes. Economically the it has to be sensible, but it also has to be driven by your user experience.
The fact is that if a user's got good access to video content they're going to use more of it and you're going to sell more.
And that's what the providers need to wake up and see. It's not just the base cents, sometimes you've got to spend money to make money.
>> THE PANELIST: Just two quick comments, one on the content issue that seals to be popping up heavily during this discussion, if we observe what has happened in the technology within the last couple of years, the tools are becoming more and more available for content creation, preservation, distribution and dissemination. They are becoming more and more price effective and more and more affordable. We need to encourage more and more on an African level and using authorities in Africa that use the local content between Africa and Africans that live ‑‑ live abroad.
In order to do that effectively, commenting on the comment of the gentleman from Kenya, we need to measure things. Because something that you need to develop, you need to be able to measure it and to compare the development from year‑to‑year.
So we feed to see what type of registrations under the African CCLTDs happen in local content. We need to see the Wikipedia pages in local content in our local languages, the blogs in our local languages, and to compare them year‑by‑year, and to compare them with the amount of traffic that is coming in and out of the country in terms of IP addresses, international traffic, number of systems and metrics like that. So this needs serious work on an economic basis in order really to be able to foster it and to push it in the future.
Concerning the comment of Mr. Murethi about the governments I think governments are now more receptive, they are ready more and more to listen. I have sensed that during my work at the ministerial conference in the African Union. The problem is sometimes they don't want to speak out that they need help. That they are embarrassed to say it. So we need as a community to go and approach them, approach them with the solutions, because they see that it is not proper that they come out and see that they don't know how to lead the way in this or that ‑‑ that aspect of liberalization. So I think we need to be more aggressive and more communicative as a community. We are a strong community, and we have our Outreach and we have our influence and we are able to influence more and more the decision‑makers in the government, and to help them really in what they might want to do, but they don't know how to do it and who will pay for it.
So I see there are positive change. And I can really help in that if there are any initiatives in ‑‑ in the future. Thank you.
>> DR. NII QUAYNOR: Thank you very much. Actually time is not on our side. So I can only take two ‑‑ two questions and a comment. And the comment is from him, but two other questions. Otherwise ‑‑ well, I will take the comment from the CEO of.
>> THE PARTICIPANT: It's a comment and a question as well. So ... Yeah, the comment is about what Andrew just said about the user‑experience. I think that is critical in investing in Internet connectivity business, because more user, the ease using the net use it. No doubt about that. We are seeing it for the mobile ‑‑ mobile Internet is developing, because people see it more easy for them to use their mobile to access the data which they have. So that is something important.
My question was about the fiber and all the initiative that older institution like African Union and others are doing.
If we already have fiber there, and they are a connecting country, but there is no traffic on those, that means some ‑‑ a huge part of the work is done. I mean, that's the biggest part.
How can policy can come and help the user of those fiber to achieve the goal of the interconnection? I think that is something which we need to look at.
That is a comment, and also an acceptance of support, a Nick has created since 2009 a government Working Group. This is not something usual but we have created a government Working Group where we are trying to establish that between the community and government. For now our meeting, our closed meeting where we meet government and discuss issue and try to explain so that they can have.
So I think we are here, calling for government to join more this thing, and Tarek, I will be very happy to work with you on that so we can have a more conducive environment and try to address those issue as technical community to help things to move. Thanks.
>> DR. NII QUAYNOR: Yes?
>> THE PARTICIPANT: (Name) (company). I want to make ‑‑ give a question, part comment, on the business of content, because we know that connectivity is redundant if there's no content. The content does not exist. It is not used if it's not relevant the end user. By the end of the day somebody has to make this business make sense.
In our case, for instance, I would say it's for schools about 259 schools in Kenya they have websites through our company and we try to make business out of that.
The number of people or the percentage of the population that can understand this business, the business of content, is very limited in the country or in this region.
So my question is: Like every other business, whatever it sells, whatever commodity, soap, sugar, whatever, selling content or developing content for a business case will face the same challenges as developing soap or wheat for sale.
So if a very small percentage of the population understands this business and this is only among the very young people, what kind of steps can any country or can any government take to make sure that this businesses developed by these very young people are going to survive yet you know that the case of businesses going down are very low. What can be done.
>> DR. NII QUAYNOR: I think I will have to close the questions unfortunately, because there is not enough time. So what we'll do now is I'd like to give the panelists chance to make their closing remarks, no more than ‑‑ based on the clock no more than two minutes.
So I start from my left.
>> THE PANELIST: Thank you, Chair. I appreciate the input of my colleague and the audience, the questions and comments. I think what this proves is that there is a lot of interest in developing the whole of the Internet ICT sector on the continent, and that there is a need to work together the private sector, the academia, the government, regional community so that we can realize the vision of Africa, and I encourage us to keep interacting whenever we have opportunities like this, and others coming, the ICANN meeting and in Geneva, summit and so on, thanks.
>> DR. NII QUAYNOR: (Inaudible).
>> THE PANELIST: Before summing I want to supplement what he is saying that, yes, our first assessment actually of African Union and I received the map only two days ago, there is African countries are inter connected by fiber. The list I have gotten so far is 34 missing links that need to be implemented to have the full niche. But that's what I call the lineal map. In fact, most of this fiber is not provided to the end‑users. They cannot access this, because of the policy, because of the monopoly, because of the club among operators. Of those kind of issues that will be the issue that we will be really facing. Do we have to bypass that infrastructure to build another infrastructure which is actually a waste of time in the system? Shall the government as you say the policymakers intervene in making or forcing the open access prospects and see that paragraph that will be answered by the end of October.
Each of the region can stand by this, will certainly make the specific recommendation to the policymakers and to the project implementation team to see what they have to add to the existing fiber that are not given access to by the owners and the operators. So having said that, I would just like to say thank you to everybody for having the time to bear us and to support us with regard to that, to our interventions.
One the African Union activities, a lot of things has not been said here. We didn't say it. We just flew over everything, but, believe me, the African Union Commission is now moving from more ‑‑ how can I say, operational institutions that really involved in the activities. And we count a lot the support of the communities, the users, the policymakers, at all levels in order to make sure that we'll be having a coherent infrastructure and policy built for the continent.
>> THE PANELIST: Thank you. I believe in my closing remarks what I'll just ‑‑ I'll respond to some of the questions, is that an area we need to address which was raised by one of the participants here is access to low access users. Currently if you look at all the deployment that's happening it mainly focuses on high income users, but we think that there is an opportunity for us to go into public‑private partnership to address low income users and also people in disadvantaged areas like in rural areas. And that is where now we should go beyond the business case, and say, okay, fine, what do you want to achieve from a social perspective. So that's an opportunity for us to address. When it comes to content as somebody mentioned here it has to be relevant, but the opportunity for us is ‑‑ there has to be a need behind it. Currently, if you look at Africa, one of the needs that we have is education. And so education is continued being a critical driver when it comes to content management and provision of content. And then possibly also health because you also have partners who are looking into that area of providing health content. So thank you very much for giving me this opportunity today. Thank you.
>> THE PANELIST: In the last five years Africa has been aware. That is when you had the fiber inland, fiber across the sea, and we have therefore for the 6% linkage to our population. That is good. But you still have another 54% to go.
I urge you let us rollback our sleeves and work hard but in the next years we get all 54% connected. Thank you.
>> THE PANELIST: First of all, thank you, everybody, to panelists to the other panelists and to everybody in the room. In my closing remark I'd also like to say that in the last five years, 6 years, I've seen amazing things happen on this continent. I've seen traffic levels rising by 2,000% on our network alone thanks to cost cutting due to deregulation and due to the fact that there is more freedom to operate and more competition. I pray that it comes to the rest of the African content.
The amount of deregulation, I hope to see more and more cross‑border circuits. And I really believe that if we work together as a continent, we can do amazing things.
And the proof of that is in the rising traffic levels.
I also ‑‑ even if I look at the Kenyan traffic levels I see over a gigabyte a second today flowing to the Kenyan academic network. That was 155 meg less than a year ago, I believe. So that's a ten‑fold growth in under 12 months. It's now time to start getting the traffic flowing between our countries and start working together as countries, instead of working in islands, and I believe if we do that we'll achieve great things. So, yeah. Thanks again.
>> DR. NII QUAYNOR: Thank you. Last word from Dr. Tarek.
>> DR. TAREK KAMEL: I feel that we have a consensus today that we are now moving Africa into a new phase, a new era, a phase which meant access to basic connectivity from access to knowledge and access to information.
Content is the driver for economic growth and infrastructure growth and vice versa. It's a push/pull relationship that is very clear.
Therefore, I'm ending up with the recommendation, if you might agree, I'm inviting a Nick with the African Union and any other players, maybe ISOC who can help us in doing together a study about the relation of content in Africa and infrastructure from an economic point of view, analytically as well as from technical point of view and come up with clear recommendation to present to the decision‑makers in government and in business that really reflects our recommendation that's let's invest in content more and more. Let's invest in public services more and more in terms of e‑government and e‑health and education.
This will foster connectivity, and this will bring benefits as well to our African population.
So this is my recommendation. And this is invitation and conclusion that I am ending with. Thank you very much again for joining us and for inviting me for this wonderful gathering.
>> DR. NII QUAYNOR: Well, please, let's thank your panelists.
And I also think we should thank ourselves, because a lot of the stimulating questions came from the audience.
So I appreciate that.
As usual the time goes very fast when is very interesting. So we've gotten to the end, and I wouldn't want to hold any further summary or any further conclusion, I think it's been summarized by the panel. So I thank you very much for being part of this opportunity of interconnecting Africa. Thank you.
(Session concluded 8:01 AM CT.)