Major African ICT forum meets in Seychelles


28-April-2009

The three-day meeting, being held by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (Uneca), started yesterday at the International Conference Centre under the theme: Tracking progress in implementing ICTs for development in Eastern Africa.

Seychelles’ Minister for National Development Jacquelin Dugasse said the meeting is taking place “at a time when the world is witnessing a period of unprecedented global economic uncertainty, turbulence and outright depression”.

Minister Dugasse addressing delegates at the opening of the meeting yesterday

“The recent convergence of the food-fuel-financial crisis – compounded by climate change – constitutes a real threat that can inflict untold social and economic misery on many people of the world, especially the very poor,” he said.

He said the global downturn, which started in developed countries, has spiralled to developing countries and economies in transition.

“Close to home, the crisis poses a serious threat to the economies of most African countries,” he added.

“Investment and consumer confidence have been severely affected by the credit crunch, falling corporate profits, increasing job insecurity and reduced household disposable incomes.”

Mr Dugasse said the least developed countries, the landlocked as well as the small developing island states like Seychelles, are poised to suffer greatly from the effect of the global financial crisis.

Though these countries have limited exposure to the global financial system, the downstream effects of the global slowdown and a reduced demand for their exports have a significant impact on their economies.

He said the ongoing meeting will look at ways of harmonising ICT policies and programmes in Eastern Africa.

“There is no doubt in my mind that technological progress and innovation are long-term drivers of economic growth,” he said.

“ICT has been the engine of economic growth and continues to spur the globalisation of the economy. As such, ICTs are key enablers of development and have facilitated economic growth.

“However, the development of ICT has been uneven and has increased the disparity between the haves and the have-nots and between developed and developing countries.

“As governments, industry players, private sector and international organisations, we each have a role to play to transform this digital divide into digital opportunities for national development and enhancement of regional integration, thus the call for technology transfer.”

The forum is the 13th Intergovernmental Committee of Experts (ICE) meeting and brings together experts from the Uneca subregional office, member states, regional economic communities (RECs) and other partner institutions in the subregion.

The ICE is a steering organ mandated by the Uneca council of ministers to supervise the activities of subregional offices, including that of Eastern Africa.

It meets every year to consider developments in the subregion, especially with respect to integration. It also reviews relevant activities and establishes medium-term plans of action and programmes of work, assesses strategic policy orientations in the subregion and examines other important continental and global issues.

Countries taking part include Burundi, Comoros, DR Congo, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, Tanzania and Uganda.

The deputy executive secretary of the Economic Council for Africa, Lalla Ben Barka, commended Seychelles for its achievements.

“I commend the government of Seychelles on the country’s excellent economic performance and the progress it has made in the education of girls and boys, and in other areas,” she said, but added she is aware the country has been hit by the global economic crisis.

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