“From a policy perspective, what we need to understand is what we want to achieve. Do we want to be a participant in the industry, as government or as the regulator, or do we want to be an enabler of the ecosystem,” said SEACOM chief development officer, Suveer Ramdhani.
“When a specific government, regulator or government department identifies that, that lays the foundation because you may not need to own the fiber or the tower, [but] rather enable the sharing of conduits or the sharing of these towers.”
Ramdhani added that stakeholders in Africa’s ICT space must take a step back and realign their focus areas.
He also indicated that there are a number of challenges within the various African markets that need to be overcome.
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“Many of the markets are too regulated and other times, [there’s] not enough regulation for a market that’s small. Many of the countries we deal with have populations of 1.5, maybe two million people and the governments have unrealistic expectations of what those populations can deliver economically,” Ramdhani said.
“Sometimes you go to the markets and there’s no reusable infrastructure so you have to build the towers and the power – everything that goes with the ecosystem. These are real-world experiences that we as policy makers need to keep in mind when we articulate our policies and ambitions.”
A key point that emerged during the ICT discussion at Infrastructure Africa 2014, which is currently taking place in South Africa, is the fact that the literacy rate across Africa is at an all-time high.
(READ MORE: ICT could boost Africa’s economic growth)
Ramdhani believes that the continent is poised for additional growth and emphasised the need for it to learn from the lessons of others regarding ICT development.
“For us to succeed, we need to have a look at some of the things that have succeeded in other parts of the world as well as learn from the mistakes made in those places. We can learn from their experiences but at times, we don’t necessarily do so,” he stated.
“In many places, we choose to build niche operators that serve certain segments of the value chain from an ICT perspective, that have perhaps a three-year life cycle of business. At times we build fiber right alongside each other, we build towers right next to each other – these are some of the mistakes that we could have avoided.”