The 7th Ministerial Round Table, which was organized by e-Learning Africa and held under the Chatham House rule, brought together Ministers or their representatives from Angola, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, the Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Namibia, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe aim to advance e-learning in Africa.
Themed “Affordable and Equitable Broadband Access for Transformative Learning”.
Technological growth in Africa correlates directly with economic growth. “A 10% increase in investment in broadband infrastructure,” it was noted, “can guarantee a 1.3% increase in economic growth.”
But while Africa is the world leader in terms of Internet growth, great challenges lie ahead, especially where it comes to ensuring equality and inclusivity in the future. One particular anomaly Governments must work hard to overcome, according to assembled ministers, is the fact that the lowest income countries in Africa often have the highest bandwidth costs.
“We have no choice,” one speaker said, “than to rise to these challenges.”
The recommendations put forward by the round table covered key areas in infrastructure development, including linking to international submarine and terrestrial cables and achieving last-mile connectivity, possibly through innovative White Space projects.
They also highlighted the fact that international cooperation is essential in an increasingly interconnected world, laying the foundation for progress in technology and education across Africa. The Ministers gathered together at eLearning Africa recommended creating a single ICT and telecommunications market in Africa as a main strategic objective for all nations.
This will require an interconnected broadband structure based on harmonised ICT and telecommunication policies.
Ministers also recommended that more public/private partnerships (PPPs) are necessary to ensure that the best use is made of available resources and that any change is sustainable and economical. However, Ministers also noted that, although the private sector has a vital role to play, it is states that should provide backbone infrastructure.
Other recommendations to come out of the event include:
- Governments need to realize that the private sector is the real engine for producing technology supported educational content and more needs to be done to encourage such partnerships.
- There is no need for pilots that repeat research already completed elsewhere, but there is a need for sustainable ICT-supported learning projects designed for local contexts within Africa.
- IT actors in all sectors must work together to highlight the progress being made in their countries. Knowledge sharing must be encouraged and facilitated.
By encouraging policies, innovations, problems and solutions to be shared on a pan-African basis, the annual Ministerial Round Table aims to become part of this collaborative effort to open the continent’s frontiers to the future.