Speaking at the seventh sub-Sahara spectrum management conference on Friday 4 November in Cape Town the Minister of communications and digital technologies, Ms Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, told delegates that Radio frequency spectrum is a vital element for development of the electronic communications network infrastructure” and that policy and regulatory reforms cannot be separated from business.
“Due to insufficient allocations, Africa is faced with a shortage and limitations on availability of spectrum. The relegation of Africa to the periphery of meaningful spectrum allocation is not only detrimental to Africa’s development but it will compromise global development, world peace and the attainment of United Nations Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. It is therefore heart-warming to know that this seventh Sub-Sahara Spectrum Management Conference is seized with questions of how to deliver a spectrum strategy that works for Africa.”
She told delegates that South Africa is finalising the Next Generation Radio Frequency Spectrum Policy for Economic Development (“Spectrum Policy”). She said “Without pre-empting the outcomes of the draft Spectrum Policy consultation processes, I must indicate that this policy will be at the centre of transformation of the ICT sector. Through this Policy, South Africa intends to aggressively drive our programme of bridging the digital divide through bridging the connectivity divide that is experienced by our rural and peri-urban communities. The Policy aims to advance long-term public interest from the use of spectrum to support the rollout of communications networks for socio-economic development of the country. It further seeks to utilise the spectrum to drive broader and inclusive economic participation and development for all.
We cannot, if we want to succeed as Africa, separate policy and regulatory reforms from business. If we want Africa that deals with poverty, address education and health challenges, and create employment and wealth for our people we need to be flexible and quickly respond to technological changes and innovations that are brought to our shores. We need to start being innovative and develop technologies that will sustain our development as Africa.”
Reduction in cost, but build innovation
“The availability of spectrum must result in the reduction of the cost of communication. It has become the enabler of innovation and wealth creation for any country. We need to build innovation technology hubs, develop, and manufacture our products which can be shipped globally. We need to choose strategic partners which will aid in skills development in this ICT sector.
South Africa will launch an Artificial Intelligence Hub, in partnership with academic institutions (Tshwane University of Technology and University of Johannesburg) and ICT industry players, to harness the economic and social benefits of AI both in the country and Africa at large.
The draft spectrum policy proposes a sunset for legacy technologies such as 2G and 3G to ensures that all South Africans including in rural and remote areas are not deprived of new technologies such as 4G, 5G and beyond. Therefore, as a country, South Africa is very interested in the outcome of this conference discussions on the goal of a co-ordinated approach to spectrum management given the different pace of technological development that is seen across Africa in areas such as 5Grollout.”
“As we prepare for WRC-23, the workshop and in particular this seventh Sub- Saharan conference will inform Member States on the commercial and business imperative which to consider as we develop and finalise our positions as countries and develop common African positions for WRC- 23.
While this conference is not a decision-making conference, it is important in sharing insight, and informing us on the latest developments, and market needs which are impacted by technology changes and spectrum allocations at the WRC-23. We should as countries and as a Continent consider a balanced approach as we develop and finalize the common Africa positions for WRC-23. However, as Africa we may need to make unpopular decisions in the interest of our continent. The issue of the 600MHz spectrum is an important one that we will have to support if we have to achieve rural broadband connectivity for all. I am glad that the ITU-R Methods to satisfy the WRC-23 agenda has taken into consideration inclusion for support of 600MHz spectrum of IMT and mobile service for broadband deployment. Allocating or identifying portion of this band at the WRC-23 is important for our broadband deployment. “
The ITU and Africa
It will be remiss of me not to mention that we are celebrating the conclusion of the ITU plenipotentiary in Bucharest that elected the first African to the position of Director of the Telecommunication Development Bureau, Dr Cosmas Zavazava who hails from Zimbabwe.
The development of the ICT sector is a key African policy, regulatory and developmental agenda issue, and it is only fitting that the Director of the ITU Development sector comes from the African continent.
South Africa was also re-elected to the ITU Council for the 2023 – 2026 period, and we shall continue to advance South Africa and Africa’s priorities and relevance in this global space at ITU Council.
The Minister said that South Africa is a signatory of the Harmonised Calculation Method Agreement for Africa which will aid Members to have common principles perform cross-border frequency coordination, and address interference amongst neighbouring countries. As a signed Member of this Agreement, she urged other African members states to sign to strengthen frequency coordination. She said that given that South Africa is a signatory of the Agreement, and we have the capability and world class and reliable Data Centres, I would like to announce that the Republic of South Africa is raising her hand to host the Harmonised Calculation Software on behalf of Africa.