ADDIS ABABA, The African Union (AU) Summit holding later this month is expected to endorse a renewed push by African countries to rapidly spread high-speed internet to accelerate economic development in the continent.

The AU Heads of State and Government Assembly, scheduled to take place on Jan 22-29 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, is expected to discuss and approve the resolutions of an AU Specialised Technical Committee on Communication and ICT.

The Specialised Technical Committee held its session in November 2017, to discuss an ICT masterplan for Africa, which is focusing on using ICT as a development tool.

The key issues of discussion at the ICT ministerial meeting were the implementation of the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA) with a specific focus on how African countries could work with UN agencies to implement specific ICT initiatives.

The AU is proposing that each African country should be connected to at least two different under-sea cables and the landlocked countries should also have alternative routes to the coastline.

The ICT programmes being pursued under PIDA are also include access to a national and regional Internet Exchange Point.

African countries currently spend US$65 million every year to connect computer users in Africa to internet exchanges in London, money which could be shared within the African countries, according to Moctar Yedaly, Head of Information Society Division at the AUC.

The funds are those spent by the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to pay third parties providing the connection services to internet users, including email traffic.

The Internet Exchange has been installed in 33 African countries and officially launched in 18 countries, according to Moctar.

The 18 countries have a routing scheme for the Internet Exchange.

The AU internet masterplan seeks the commitment of the ministers of ICT to work together with transport and energy ministers to ensure that ICT ducts or fibre are deployed on regional infrastructure.

The AUC is also seeking the harmonisation of the radio spectrum in Africa, with the aim of ensuring that Africa’s emerging markets, use ICT to advance economic growth.

The Information and Communication sector, driven by a robust mobile telephony and mobile banking sector, emerged as one of Africa’s leading drivers of economic development.

The Addis Ababa-based African Union Commission (AUC) is pursuing the harmonisation of the spectrum policies.

The AU officials believe coherent spectrum policy would ensure better access to broadband internet services.

“The harmonised and efficient utilisation of the digital dividends spectrum will be a great opportunity for African countries to enhance the low level of broadband penetration,” according to a report by the AU.

The AU says should countries take advantage of the opportunity to improve on governance, the growth of the sector would be better guaranteed and its economic development potential would be unlocked through affordable internet.

The AU masterplan seeks to drive economic growth driven by innovation. It seeks to have broadband growth driven through wireless infrastructure.