The presentations that I have attended so far haven’t really been bloggable…here’s my first attempt to cover a workshop. The session is covering the status of the EASSY project. I expect the South Africa / Kenya tensions over the cable to come up in the discussion.
Dr Henry Chasia, the head of NEPAD’s E-Africa Commission was the main speaker. The highlights of his presentation focused on the background of the project:
– The cable is being developed in the context of NEPAD. 23 countries are involved.
– There are 3 components to the project: the development of the cable and the development of a broadband network first in East Africa then in West Africa.
– Network should be viewed as a public good and operate on a cost-recovery basis.
– Principles of the EASSY protocol:
1. Should be based on African ownership and leadership.
2. Should be based on African expertise.
3. Should reflect the partnership between African people.
4. Should reflect principles of regional cooperation.
1. High capacity network to move traffic across the region.
2. Significant reduction in communication costs.
– Challenge: Achieving consensus on the policy framework.
Ben Akoh and Eric Osiakwan spoke on the challenges of regulation from the perspective of SAT3 users.
– Problem with the cable is that it was built by people interested in maintaining a monopoly structure. Primary beneficiary has been telcos.
– High costs of communciation: Ghana charges $3000 per MG/per second (on SaT3). Cameroon $15,000 per MG (on SaT3); South Africa $11,000 (on SAT 3).
– There’s very little media coverage on SaT3/EASSY and the infrastructure challenges around communication in Africa.
Eassy charges expected to be btwn $1000-$1500.
– Without infrastructure improvement – any talk about E-governement, e-service, e-commerce, outsourcing etc. can’t go far.
– Routing local web traffic internationally is consting the continent about $400 million a year. Costs for routing mobile calls between african countries is even higher. For more stats on connectivity within Africa, click here.
– Reducing Sat3 costs: Mauritus Case Study – declare that the cable is an “essential facility.” (Telkom SA is fighting that).
– How should EASSY be different: Separate ownership issues vs. access issues. Anyone should be able to invest in EASSY not just govt.
– KDN’s plans to build a competing cable is great – more competition, better prices.
– For more background on the status of fibre projects in Africa, click here.
From the Q&A Session:
– Are Kenya’s concerns about EASSY legitimate?
Dr. Chassia: Kenya has been part of the process, through out they should have raised their issues during the process e.g. with regards to the protocol they should have submitted their comments on the draft (4 countries did that) so far they’ve sent in nothing.
– A comment – enough is not being done to translate the implication of EASSY to the average person.
My take: So far, I’m pessimitic about the odds of a succesful outcome via the NEPAD process. Too many conflicting interests (and room for lots of conferences to resolve them). I hope I’m wrong. In the meantime, I think Kenya should go it alone and resell to interested parties at a competitive price.