KIGALI - The 18th East African Communications Organisations (EACO) meeting of assemblies opened in Kigali yesterday to review the progress made towards harmonising policies in the region.
The five-day forum brings together about 300 participants from Telecom operators, postal organisations, and Regulatory Authorities and broadcasting organisations from the five East African Community (EAC) countries.
Opening the workshop, Dr. Ignace Gatare, the Minister in President’s Office in Charge of ICT, said that the forum will set in place an enabling regional environment for sustained growth and development of a competitive ICT sector.
“It is through regional synergies and cooperation that we can comfortably fully harness the power of ICT to drive our economic development and serve as an engine for effective integration,” he stated.
Gatare added that he is witnessing significant efforts by EAC countries in deploying national fibre optic backbones which represent a solid foundation for broadband development in the region.
“We need concerted and innovative policies adapted for regional network interconnections, integration, pricing strategies and flexible tax regimes,” he noted.
ICT minister called upon the participants to come up with clear strategies for the switching on of digital broadcasting systems without unnecessarily prolonging the telecast period.
Patrick Mwesigwa, the Director, Technology and Licensing, Uganda Communications Commission, mentioned that there was need to come out with uniform guidelines for the communications sector in the region.
“We are going to work on the framework to enable open access to undersea cables to Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi at the same terms with Kenya and Tanzania which are connected to three undersea cables, SEACOM, TEAMS and EASSy,” he said.
Speaking at the forum, Francois Regis Gatarayiha, the acting Director General, Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Agency, said that the meeting offers a unique opportunity for direct interaction and sharing by ICT policy makers, stakeholders, and service providers in East Africa.
“Through joined efforts in the ICT sector, we can achieve monetary union and political federation since we have already attained the Customs Union and Common Market Protocol,” he noted.
Gatarayiha explained that there is need to ensure and maintain an efficient and competitive market; affordable and universally available services, which should translate into productivity and economic growth for the region.
Sam Nkusi, a participant from Rwanda, called for strong policy, strong regulation and a strong licensing framework for effective competition.The meeting follows one held in Kampala-Uganda last year.