Deputy Minister Pinky Kekana: Africa Preparatory Meeting for World Radiocommunication Conference 2019

26 Aug 2019

Opening Remarks Deputy Minister of Communications & Digital Technologies Pinky Kekana on Africa Preparatory Meeting for the World Radiocommunication Conference 2019

Programme Director;
Councillor Xolani Witbooi;
The Secretary-General of the Africa Telecommunications Union, Mr. John Omo;
The ITU representative Ms Ilham Gazi, it is always an honour to have support of the ITU in this preparatory process for Africa;
Ambassadors and Dignitaries;
Distinguished delegates;
Ladies and gentlemen

First allow me to express my sincere gratitude and appreciation to the African Telecommunications Union and African Administrations for having chosen South Africa to host this crucial meeting, this last Africa Preparatory Meeting for World Radiocommunication  Conference 2019 or as we all refer to it, as WRC-19, to be held in Sharm Al-Sheikh, Egypt. Let me also take this opportunity to thank (my colleague) Councillor Xolani Witbooi on behalf of the Executive Mayor of Buffalo City Metro Municipality for allowing the Department to host the APM in this beautiful South African city, East London. It is indeed an honour to be in this Province of the Legends.

Distinguished delegates,

I don’t have to repeat the history of the province and about our leaders as alluded to by my colleague, Councillor Xolani Witbooi, in his welcome speech.

As you probably are aware, in this sixth Administration of South Africa, the President of the Republic, Mr Cyril Ramaphosa announced our new Department, as the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies. Core to the functions of this new Department is the 4th industrial revolution (4IR), which is amongst our national key priorities supported by the President. 

Ladies and gentlemen

Electro-magnetic waves and in this specific case, Radio Frequency Spectrum, cannot be isolated from this 4th industrial revolution, as in the case of the previous revolutions. The success of Industry 4.0 require all forms of technology platforms viz. mobile, satellite, etc) for connectivity. Thus, your function in radio frequency spectrum management is essential. 

I am informed that APMs were preceded by ATU Working Groups responsible developing “Africa common positions”, and that through collaboration of sub-regions, over 90% of preliminary Africa common positions have been finalised.

Indeed, you deserve a round of applause.

Now, as you deliberate in this APM over the next few days, through consensus and a spirit of compromise, I am sure that by the end of this week, you will make decisions that ensures finalization and harmonization of all Africa common positions for WRC-19.

Distinguished delegates,

I believe that key to your decisions is the issue that, amongst other things, Africa suffers from a lack of connectivity in Broadband, especially in the rural and remote areas of the continent. Therefore, it simply cannot be business as usual, your approach should consider support for frequency allocations that ensure technologies complement each other and warrant that rural and remote broadband issues are addressed. 

The recent Cyclone Idai, destroying parts of Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe, have made us realize that spectrum allocation and regulatory regimes require a different strategic approach. We must learn and get better as we tackle the technology challenges for Africa, for South Africa. 

Africa is not the Africa we know without natural disasters. No continent is. Thus, your focus should also support programmes which enhances Satellite Earth Observation. This will ensure future support for disaster preparedness, emergency response, rescue, and relief efforts; ensure monitoring of the flooding as it happens, and assess damage during the post-disaster phase as affected communities’ recover from a disaster. We have to actively and consciously protect and preserve our environment for future generations.

To our industry partners, 

I am advised that you have also been very supportive throughout this preparation process. Through your support, African administrations managed to submit contributions to the development of technical and regulatory studies at the ITU-Radiocommunication.

I am also informed that Africa witnessed the success of a live trial of high-altitude platforms (HAPS) right here in South Africa, which promises to offer an alternative to rural and remote broadband. This is hopeful and encouraging.

You also deserve a round of applause.

Ladies and gentlemen

Yesterday we witnessed an historic launch “enhancing the participation of women in ICT Policy in Africa”, convened by Qualcomm. You will recall, that during the World Radiocommunication Seminar of 2016, the ITU launched the Network of Women for WRC-19, abbreviated as NOW4WRC-19. The purpose of this initiative was to encourage a larger participation of women as delegates, chairs, vice-chair etc at WRC-19. 

From a SADC point of view this initiative was taken as a decision at the SADC ICT Minister’s meeting of September 2017, to ensure that we start the deliberate participation of women in ICTs, and in the ITU core activities.

The question I have, though is …is Africa going to have women as chairs, vice-chairs, rapporteurs at the WRC-19? This … gentlemen and ladies, is up to you, to make sure that it happens. We can no longer be observers and merely talk about the emancipation of women. We can no longer talk about gender parity, but not activate it to women empowerment. You may not be aware, that in addition to being the Deputy Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies, in South Africa, I am also the Secretary General of the Pan African Women’s Organisation, so this is a subject that is extremely lose to my heart.

The launch of this initiative, right here at the ATU meeting, will see a blue print being formulated from the workshop that took place yesterday, and at a high level will include, but not limited to the following: 

  • A strategic understanding to the barriers to entry for funding and funding mechanisms
  • An integrated education system that has a bottom up approach, and targeting primary school learners right through to university graduates
  • And then moving to skills development, reskilling, and upskilling in the workplace
  • The mindset of women AND men is a key area of focus in the blue print, and as we finalise Africa’s preparations for WRC-19, I want to implore you to make commitments and follow through with them when it comes to the appointment of a minimum of 2 women delegates, and the deliberate of women appointments in roles of significance …. Not just because they are women, but also because they add the value that we know they have
     

As the Secretary-general of the Pan African Women’s Organization (PAWO), I am personally committing to use this platform to enhance the participation of African women in ICT Policy in all aspects, but in particular, in the work of spectrum. Africa has 55 Countries, the minimum we should be having is at least one or two women as part of your teams. In order for this to happen, I propose to all Heads of Delegations (HOD) that as you return to your home countries, you engage your principals on the “decision” taken at this particular workshop, to ensure our success, as a continent, and in the manner we represent Africa at WRC-19.

Conclusion

In conclusion, I wish you all good deliberations. Advancing Africa’s development at WRC-19 is critical to us, as we need these new technologies to build the continent’s industrial programmes, and create a sustainable 4IR infrastructure that allows our people to thrive economically, aligning to the objectives of the AU’s Agenda 2063.

I hope that we will achieve consensus on the agendas as we need to ensure unity, in order to be a stronger force at WRC-19. Nothing about us, without us!

I look forward to hearing the outcomes, which we will share with our colleagues at the upcoming AU Meeting of Ministers of ICTs, which will take place in September 2019.

And, now, it is my privilege and honour to declare this fourth and last African Preparatory Meeting for WRC-19 officially opened. 

Asante sana, Obrigado, Merci, Shukran …. Thank you 

Malibongwe!

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