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latest news > news in brief > Ministers give EASSy another go

Highway Africa News Agency (HANA)

Ministers give EASSy another go

26 June 2007

ICT ministers from about 20 African countries have been invited to Malawi for a special meeting that is expected to iron out controversies surrounding the ratification of the NEPAD ICT broadband network (NIBN) project.

The project includes the Eastern Africa Submarine Cable System (EASSy) and Central Corridor Trade and Transport Facilitation Project.

Rwandan state minister for energy and communications Albert Butare told HANA that ministers are expected to meet in Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi, by the end of June, to try and reach a consensus on whether the project can proceed without some member countries signing the protocol.

The ratification for NIBN should be completed by June 30 2007, according to the project time schedule.

There are currently disputes and no working consensus among some members over ownership of the US$280 broadband infrastructure.

"The coming together of all member countries including those that have not yet appended signature on the protocol for the establishment of the Special Purpose vehicle (SVP) to own and manage the system," Butare said. "This meeting will give room for the tabling of discussions and provision of concrete solutions to difficulties in this project," he added.

Dr. Edmund Katiti, the NEPAD Policy and Regulator Advisor, said during an EASSy ministerial conference held in Kigali recently that countries that have not signed may accede to the protocol once it has come into effect. "Eleven countries including Kenya have not yet signed the protocol, citing widespread irregularities in regulatory framework," Katiti said.

Kenya declared the protocol illegal as it commits the signatories to modify their regulatory framework to accommodate the provisions. In this way it overrides the nation’s laws and other regulatory agreements in Eastern and Southern Africa. Kenya argued that it cannot allow a return to an era of monopoly and controls due to a poorly designed protocol.

At the first protocol signing in Kigali, only seven countries Rwanda, South Africa, Uganda, Lesothoo, Madagascar, Malawi and Tanzania signed.

Meanwhile the NEPAD e-Africa Commission has announced that the eleven countries, including Kenya, that have not signed the protocol, risk being thrown out of the project.

Dr Henry Chasia, the Deputy Executive Chairperson of the NEPAD e-Africa Commission, said the countries that have not signed won’t until the critical mass required for the project to take off has been achieved.

Chasia recently told HANA journalists in Pretoria, South Africa, that countries that have already signed the protocol had agreed to all conditions and had been asked to nominate companies that would invest in the project - an event that nominated 12 companies out of the required 60.

With the Malawi meeting, Rwanda’s Butare expressed optimism that all member countries will put an end to the ongoing wrangles that have crippled the progress of the submarine cable system, as well as forge a way forward on its quick implementation.

The Malawi meeting follows another meeting of ICT ministers which was held in April in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania. The meeting agreed to open dialogue for all member countries.

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