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AFRO-NETS> African Development Forum

  • Subject: AFRO-NETS> African Development Forum
  • From: Irene Bertrand <bertrandi@who.ch>
  • Date: Fri, 19 Nov 1999 11:07:19 -0500 (EST)

African Development Forum
Source: <ahila-net@who.ch>

Dear friends and colleagues,

Herewith a brief overview of the African Development Forum which took
place in Addis Ababa 24-28 October. This inaugural conference enti-
tled: 'The challenge to Africa of Globalisation and the Information
Age' was organised by the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA),
and is the first of an annual series on different themes (the theme
for next year's will be HIV/AIDS in Africa).

It was attended by some 700 participants, many more than expected,
and included ministers and other government officials involved in
telecommunications, international organisations, the private sector,
NGOs, the donor and development community. The wide range of partici-
pants from different sectors and different levels of the community
allowed for much informal discussion and as usual in such meetings
the coffee breaks and exhibition areas were very animated.

Key speakers included the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, the President
of Mali, the UN Deputy Secretary-General and the UN ECA Executive
Secretary as well as Noah Samara, Chief Executive Officer, WorldSpace
Corporation, USA. Each session usually consisted of a major presenta-
tion, followed by a panel discussion and finally input from the
floor. However there was rarely sufficient time for participants to
fully take part, which was a pity and a frustration as there was many
valid and relevant comments and questions which were never followed
up due to lack of time. We noted a large proportion of francophone

Africa and the Information and Communications technologies left no
one indifferent. The optimistic among the participants talked of Af-
rica leap-frogging into the future, by-passing the lengthier evolu-
tion, which took place in the developed world. Others cited Africa's
lack of infrastructure in transport, telecommunications, education
etc. as being a huge obstacle to the continent's assimilation of
these new opportunities, yet others queried Africa's need for such
advances. Content and language of the Internet brought some discus-
sion on Africa' input in this area.

Librarians were very few and far between, health librarians - even
less... Helga Patrikios (Zimbabwe) was present and Maria Musoke
(Uganda) who gave a fine presentation on a community health project
in Uganda using two-way radios for assisting traditional birth atten-
dants in their work. At that same session Leela McCullough gave an
overview of SatelLife's early contribution to communications technol-
ogy in Africa and their pioneering role in electronic access to
health information.

The fact that the conference took place at all was already an
achievement and is being seen as the beginning of a continual process
of discussion and not an end into itself. The Website indicated below
gives you the full text of presented documents etc.


Irene Bertrand

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