East Africa


South Asia is a tad short of two billion people, I keep reminding people. That is bigger than Africa. But we are not highly connected. I am sure there is more intra-East Africa travel than within S Asia. Europe, is smaller than Africa even if we include the population of Russia within it.
Earlier this month I was asked by a panel moderator what the most critical factor was in accelerating broadband use. My answer was mobile apps. If people have interesting things to do with their devices, they will upgrade to smartphones, they will pay the usage charges, etc. This is also why I decided to put some effort into beating back ETNO’s misguided effort to squeeze the Internet into a dysfunctional accounting-rate regime. So where are these apps coming from?
Good news for the many outside and inside government who struggled to get this done, including our colleagues from Research ICT Africa. The necessary condition for cheap connectivity is about to the fulfilled. Last week, in the Kenyan port of Mombasa, a regional communications revolution belatedly got under way when Kenya’s president, Mwai Kibaki, plugged in the first of three fibre-optic submarine cables due to make landfall in Kenya in the next few months. They should speed up the connection of Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda, as well as bits of Somalia, Ethiopia and Sudan, to the online world. Of course, as the West African cable showed abundantly, and then the landing of SEA-ME-WE 4 in Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh did, the cable by itself does not make things better.
Ideas picked up at Euro CPR from our African colleagues, coming out in multiple fora/countries/forms. Without direct government action, other than enabling policies such as the abolition of international gateway monopolies, and the kind of fuss that has accompanied the regulation of roaming charges within Europe, roaming has been abolished in East Africa. Why not in South Asia? Why can this not be done in South Asia? Telenor has a presence in three of the major markets in the SAARC region: dominant in Bangladesh; significant in Pakistan and getting established in India.
Prof.  Rohan Samarajiva discuss about Reducing roaming rates in South Asian regional in his article Regional Roaming for the Choices column in Lanka Business Online. In 2006, Zain Africa took a step that led to the abolition of roaming charges and made a significant contribution to economic integration of the East African region. They did more for making the East African Community real than several meetings of government leaders and officials combined The Article can be found here   
Do mobile phones pollute the environment? Sri Lanka’s Environment Minister Champika Ranawaka thinks so. That was why he wants to impose a so called ‘environment tax’ on mobiles, (in fact all phones, but the above newspaper article focuses on mobiles) at two points, when you purchase it and use it. This is on top of the rest of the tax components the mobile users already have to pay. No information to that mobile usage is a serious threat to Sri Lanka’s environment.
Mauritius-based private equity venture Seacom has started the construction of a fibre optic cable that will link southern and east Africa with India and Europe.   The $650 million project covers more than 15,000 kilometres to link South Africa to India and France through Mozambique, Madagascar, Kenya and Tanzania. It is expected to provide first broadband access to countries in East Africa, which are currently using satellite connections.   In a similar project, NEPAD e-Africa Commission signed a deal with an American firm 5-P Holdings in November 2007 for the construction of an undersea submarine cable to link every country in Africa with the outside world.   This is a joint project between African investors and US telecommunications development company Herakles Telecom.
allAfrica.com: East Africa: Countries Agree On EASSy Project Model It appears that considerable progress is being made on ensuring open access is the norm with the planned submarine cable for eastern Africa. One hopes that Asian regulators also start paying attention to access issues on the submarine cables that land in their countries. The change with the EASSy cable did not just happen; it took a lot of effort by regulators and stakeholders.