Co-operation in ICT will benefit citizens in East Africa

Posted on January 6, 2014 12:01 am

In an endeavour to build on long-standing partnership between ICT entrepreneurs from all five East African nations, there is need for them to converge for business matching in a move that could explore business opportunities in region, especially in software industry. As countries in Africa strive to bring about greater economic growth and progress, the collaboration between individual governments in this continent and the partnerships forged between governments, regional blocs like East African Community (EAC), South African Development Cooperation (SADC) among others and ICT industry will take on greater significance. Converging of unknown and renowned players from different industries to explore new markets and business opportunities in the region will be a starting in eliminating overreliance with foreign firms in delivery of technological solution. As the region sets out to create a fairer business environment for its small and medium enterprises to grow alongside major conglomerates like General Electric, IBM and Google that have set up shops in the region, such efforts could facilitate businesses matching opportunities among young and upcoming entrepreneurs in East Africa. The regional technology sector is crying out for more co-operation in information and communications technology among the member states especially Kenya, which is well ahead in that field in the region.

Many hope co-operation could be translated into ICT-related projects and all the five countries could try to venture into various areas of ICT where each country has strengths in implementing the projects. Since the advent of mobile money transfer popularly known as M-Pesa which is Swahili for mobile money has shown how Kenya has advanced and be regional leader in ICT, and how it has incorporated ICT use in its villages, besides educating Kenyan youths on how to use ICT to generate income, especially in the content industry something that has failed in Tanzania and Uganda. One area that has lagged behind in the region is the region lack of programme to develop animation and research in 3D computer graphics with exception of sub standard colleges mushrooming in the region hoodwinking people that they can train world class skills in animation. In fact the best animators in East Africa are either trained in western countries or are self trained. There are very few films in the region that have taken 3D technology in producing movies and commercials are countable. Recently, the African Union headquartered in Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa asked the member states to work on removal of trade barriers on information and communication technology products that will help increase their accessibility and expand the ICT industry and help spur productivity, innovation and economic growth. East African ICT sector growth has been fuelled by tariff reduction that has helped drive innovations hence enabling delivery of technological solutions and services to consumers across the region at affordable cost that has also been beneficial to economies.

Low costs have boosted the ICT services and industries in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania as well as the regional laggard Burundi and member economies and this has translated into more robust ICT export growth among EAC countries. The region should also look at South African ICT as the champion in the continent because it has pioneered various advanced areas at the international level and East African countries need to learn how South Africa has managed to push its advertising, animation, movie and cinematography culture and expertise outside the country. It would also be vital for the five countries to harmonize their policies and should study the ICT developments in South Africa and make proposals to the regional bloc secretariat in Arusha on the approaches that can be taken to emulate South Africa’s success. The East-South co-operation in ICT could also be forged through ICT training programmes involving between the ICT practitioners of both countries. As an experienced middle-income country, South Africa has further strengthened its industry with the developing countries, so that Africa as a whole will not lag in the field. The ICT sector is part of East Africans future and can bring huge economic, cultural and industrial benefits as long as there is strengthening of co-operation and building a sustainable future for the estimated 140 million people economic bloc’s by sharing experiences and vision on ICT.

Contador Harrison