Balancing Act (London)

28 February 2014

Central African Ministers Sign Brazzaville Agreement, Committing to Open Access but Key Signatories Missing

analysis

London — In issue 688 we carried a Top Story on the dead end Cameroon has got itself into with its incumbent telco Camtel. (The Battle Against High Fibre Prices from Monopoly Providers moves to Central Africa. See more here:) This week Ministers in the region signed an accord endorsing Open Access as the basis for the Central African Backbone project. Russell Southwood looks at the implications of the accord.

Following a two day meeting of Ministers of Posts and Telecommunications in Brazzaville, the Ministers of DRC, Chad and Congo-Brazzaville signed an agreement called the Brazzaville Declaration, pledging to connect Central Africa with a broadband fibre network.

Missing from the signatories that should have been at the bottom of the agreement were Central African Republic (understandable in current circumstances), Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and Cameroon. On the latter, no surprises but Cameroon holds the gateway to the sea for Chad so will be a stumbling block unless it joins the party or an alternative routing is found.

However, a bilateral memorandum on interconnection between Congo and Gabon was signed at the Build Africa forum at the beginning of February. But the substance of this memorandum is not known and incumbent Gabon Telecom (Vivendi owned but soon to be sold) is well known for its high wholesale prices and monopoly practices.

The Brazzaville Agreement commits the signatories to ensure open access to telecommunications infrastructure at any point in their respective territories and to establish and strengthen national policies conducive to the creation of favorable conditions for predictability and transparency competition in the telecommunications sector.

The signatories also pledged that they will mobilize both private and public resources and co-ordinate road and rail development with their fibre plans.

The Congo-Brazzaville Minister, Thierry Lezin Moungalla, who is a champion of ICT in Central Africa said:"We are truly committed to the road of sub-regional interconnection. And I am proud that the Congo is the starting point of this convergence."

There's an old English saying:"Fine words butter no parsnips," meaning (to mix cooking metaphors terribly) that the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

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