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The theme for the third African Internet Governance forum “Connecting Continents for Enhanced Multistakeholder Internet Governance” was quite a thoughtful theme; however we must note that the 3rd Internet Governance forum though largely successful was still short of full participation within some key stakeholders in the African Continent. Despite the full support of UNECA, The Government of Nigeria and our official host NIRA, the Abuja meeting still lacked enough bite in teams of governmental and business representation from the African continent.
The reasons are not farfetched first and foremost a lot of our sub regional IGF’s have lacked strong operational structure , this notably includes Southern African Region, North African Region and East Africa, if these sub regional blocs in Africa have a well structured Sub regional IGF’s there will be full participation of these member states at all stake holder level at the 3rd African IGF which was a much better improvement than what happened in Nairobi, Kenya, Secondly countries in these sub regional blocs called have at least a minimum of two national IGF’s. The need for us to reach out to our lusphone countries namely Angola, Mozambique, Sao Tao of Principle, Cabo Verde and Guinea Bissau has to be achievable as for the third time around these countries where missing out. It must also be noted that our small island states in Africa including Cabo Verde, Comoros, Seychelles and Mauritius where also missing out, for us to really have a pan African IGF inclusiveness must be a watchword, especially for a diverse continent like ours. A situation too where you have participants with no direct involvement within their country Internet Governance structures at whatever level of stake holder involvement should not be allowed, even though we wish inclusiveness for all, care must be taken that participants that attend represent a particular stakeholder group within their country and are involved in their national processes or sub regional process in one way or the other. As the end game is for the discuss to filter nationally to all.
UNECA have initiated a true Pan African IGF at this third IGF, the ball is now within the courts of those that matter to make it a point to bring those left behind into the fold especially at governmental level. In my opinion for dialogue within a free and open framework to yield dividends for our continent in terms of the “Ïnternet Governance” our governments have to be involved and engaged so they too fully become involved in the true meaning of multistakeholderism not in name but in deed.
A situation where in some cases governments are criticized for doing X and Y wrongly when they have no clue of what is happening within the Internet Governance sphere is something that should not be made to happen if they are truly engaged. A good example at the Net Mundial in Brazil, the Ghanaian Government was fully in attendance by their Minister and a high level delegation, the Minister even spoke, however at this year’s 3rd African Internet Governance Forum, no senior official attended from the Ghanaian government to deliberate with our Brazilian counterpart who came about the perspective from Africa at the Net Mundial, as the Ghanaian Minister stood up as African to speak at the Net Mundial. In certain perspective it seemed attendance is based not really on stakeholders but those within a particular circle, that norm needs to be broken, least we get the flimsy arguments at times its civil society driven etc, whereas if we all work to strengthen our sub regional IGF’s using our various sub regional bodies like ECOWAS, SADC, East African Commission as a point to reach out to our governments more can be achieved, hence UNECA been a good catalyst with support from the African Union to make this happen.
Let’s look now at a key stake holder also missing at the third Africa Internet Governance forum, where were our African Telco businesses? despite the fact that Nigeria boost all the major players in the Mobile Telco network in Africa none was present at the third Internet Governance Forum? The question you ask, these Telco’s have been major Infrastructure providers for access in Africa today in terms of the Internet and the overall socio economic development of our Continent, and how come did they seem left out or seem uninterested in the domain of Internet Governance? My personal opinion is how have they have been engaged to come into the fold, I hold the strong view, to get the business sector involved especially our Telco’s and ISP’s into the domain of Internet Governance very well, our governments are to be the lead catalyst to make this happen, hence the need to engage governments well; as they provide regulatory bodies, they provide licenses and policies within the ICT Ecosystem if they call on a stakeholder like a Telco Business to attend IGF’s like the one in Abuja in no way they would say no or not attend fully.
In a nutshell when we look at the key layers of Internet Governance we shall notice easily which stakeholders we need to bring more into the fold, first at Sub Regional level then our Pan African event. Organizations like AFRINIC which are playing a key role within the IANA Transition process, need to explain in simple terms what this means to Africa in general, ICANN advocacy structure in the continent needs to be fully structured in terms of Internet Governance, so its reach out happens properly and well understood. ISOC who has done a lot of capacity building work in Africa needs to do the same, same applies to ITU. These four bodies AFRINIC, ICANN, ITU and ISOC have to fully been involved in sub regional IGF’s that will filter into a well defined Pan African IGF for our continent to see the importance of Internet Governance. We shouldn’t forget Diplo Foundation who will help out to develop capacities in the field of Internet Governance when our structures function effectively, a strong Sub Regional leads to a strong National process of IGF as the norm in our continent in terms of policies and others what applies within lour sub regional blocs countries within those bloc follow even if in some cases they tweak situations to favour their own unique country characteristics, these in turn will filters into our Pan African IGF as in the end we over 50 countries in our continent, diverse in many ways, but united too in many and Internet Governance can strength our bond as a continent.
UNECA has acted as an able catalyst to build the African IGF, through their desire and efforts, I belief they can use their enormous outreach in our continent as a development oriented organization working with the African Union and our Sub Regional bodies to get all on board so no one is left behind in terms of our stakeholders in the African continent, and I belief Abuja has been the start so we get the message we want to our people heard with one voice in terms of Internet Governance, My hope is that come the next Pan African IGF in 2015, we see a bigger difference and this can begin now as we coordinate our Pan African efforts towards the upcoming discuss that will take place at the Global IGF in Istanbul come September 2014.