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Sierra Leone’s Minister of Information and Communications, Hon. Alhaji Alpha B.S Kanu on Wednesday 27th February, 2013 informed mobile industry professionals, operators and regulators from across the globe that the electromagnetic spectrum being a scarce natural resource has the potential to increase a country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in much the same way as other mineral resources such as diamond, gold, bauxite etc.
Contributing to the debate on “how to address the challenges of developing transparent policy frameworks to encourage growth in Sub-Saharan Africa through mobile” at the GSMA Mobile World Congress held at the Fira Gran Via in Barcelona, Honourable Kanu presented a comparative analysis of how a review of the Mines and Mineral policy in Sierra Leone transformed the West African nation with a population of 6million people to the fastest growing economy with an increased GDP of 35 percent in 2011 and 19 percent in 2012 second only to China as the hottest economies.
The GSMA mobile World Congress is of the belief that the economies of Sub-Saharan Africa have benefitted considerably from the growth of the mobile sector. In 2011, it is estimated that mobile operators and their associated ecosystems had a direct economic impact of USD32 billion, including paying USD 12 billion in taxes.
In Sub-Saharan Africa, the mobile sector is also credited for increasing the region’s GDP by 4.4 percent and it has also created 3.5 million full time equivalent (FTE) jobs across the formal and informal sectors.
Gabrielle Gauthey, Executive Vice President, Global Government and Public Affairs, Alcatel Lucent says, “the Africa mobile community is the second largest behind Asia, therefore the spectrum, which is the ‘new oil’ for Africa, must be seen as a short term asset to the treasury with long term revenue potential. Therefore regulators must look at the National Allocation Plan or Broadband Plan which guides the availability of the spectrum before allocation to operators.
If Governments, she continued, are to address the challenges of limited spectrum and sector-specific taxation, operators must bear in mind that the spectrum is not given to or owned by operators, rather it is a concession leased for a period of time and that it is a national asset”.
H.E Ms. Suivi Linden, former Minister of the Government of Finland and Special Envoy to the Broadband Commission for Digital Dividend, in her keynote address, said, “if we are to accelerate the socio-economic growth in Sub-Saharan Africa, leadership is very critical to our success”.
According to Ms. Linden, Ministers, Regulators, Members of Parliament etc. need broadband for education, social services, health etc, therefore, there must be a roadmap to a sustainable digital development. A broadband implementation strategy must be developed as it is a vital tool for the goals we have set be it Millennium Development goals etc.
Hon. Kanu in support of H.E Linden’s call for a strong leadership in the drive to accelerate socio-economic growth in Sub-Saharan Africa told the Congress that Sierra Leone’s President, H.E Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma has set out clearly defined goals for his second and final term in office which he has named the “Agenda for Prosperity”. In this agenda, ICT and broadband infrastructure development is paramount. He said the landing of the ACE sub-marine cable and Government’s collaboration with the private sector in rolling out this new technology to underserved communities for an efficient and affordable service is a priority of the Government.
The GSMA Ministerial Programme which commenced on 25th February, 2013 is a three day meeting that brings together Government and Telecoms Industry leaders from across the globe to discuss industry priorities with their peers. In 2012, the programme attracted 130 Governments and 67,000 telecoms executives. This year’s attendance increased by 5% with more than 72,000 visitors from over 200 countries around the world converging on the Spanish city of Barcelona.
Sierra Leone was adequately represented by the Minister of Information and Communications from the policy perspective and Architect Siray A. Timbo, Chairman, National Telecommunications Commission as the Regulator.
By Kwame Yankson
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