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Tuesday, September 04, 2007

African governments advance plans to form CUSF

African governments recently advanced plans to form the Communications Universal Services Access Fund (CUSF) in line with the Buenos Aires Declaration on Global Telecommunications Development in the 21st Century, reports Highway Africa News Agency (HANA).

Nine of Africa’s Universal Service Access Fund (USF) agencies are preparing to form an association, to be known as the Communications Universal Service Forum (CUSF), in order to streamline their works and experiences.

USF agencies were being established by African governments to manage the universal service obligations in recognition of the Buenos Aires Declaration on Global Telecommunications Development for the 21st Century, including the Universal Service Funds, which is dealing strictly with issues relating to the Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) services diffusion on the continent.

A communiqué from the meeting of the agencies in Nairobi to assess the challenges to rural inclusion in Africa, and endorsed by the spokes person of the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation, Mr. Toby Davies, the decision would facilitate the formation of the association within the next one year to promote their common interests.

“The forum is working towards the realisation of a voluntary association to be named at a suitable time, preferably by August 2008, but with an interim name of the Communications Universal Service Forum (CUSF),” the communiqué also disclosed that the association would act as a mechanism to realise the synergies from the group’s individual strengths to assist in carrying out their specific mandates.

The essence of the CUSF is to improve ICT services in Africa, and necessary steps and measures need to be taken to develop mechanisms and processes for closer cooperation and collaboration with each other.

In addition, the meeting is considered holding at least one annual meeting or forum where incumbents could learn from each other, exchange knowledge on best practices, and plan common programmes for joint events that would make individual agency operations more cost-effective and successful.

Consideration was also given to ways of pooling human, material, technical and financial resources for worthwhile programmes and projects of research and studies, training and knowledge through exchange, joint procurements of funding and expertise.

“And to set up an institutional collaborative framework with the assistance of the CTO to enable the group to carry out the agreed work programme,” the communiqué said.

The meeting, which is a four-day session at the instance of CTO, which began Tuesday, August 21 and lasted till Friday, 24 August 2007, reviewed the challenges to rural and marginalized areas in Africa, while identifying some areas for possible collaboration.

Davies explained that the Universal Service/Access (US/A) agencies meeting was taking place within the spirit of the CTO’s conference “Connecting Rural Communities Africa 2007 (CRC Africa 2007)”.

CRC Africa 2007, CTO official said is a forum for ministers, regulators, public officials, operating company executives, ICT equipment manufacturers and other stakeholders aimed at finding sustainable solutions to the major challenges of connecting Africa’s rural communities, whose over 80 per cent population is reportedly unconnected.

Mr. Davies further said that the USF officials were drawn from Nigeria, Ghana, Swaziland, Mozambique, the Gambia, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and host country Kenya, noting that access to affordable ICTs is a fundamental need for broader national development, and that telecommunications are an “essential component of political, economic, social and cultural development”.

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