The Partnership for
Higher Education in Africa



In Addis Addis Ababa, conference participants agreed that bandwidth is a critical issue for African universities. Without better bandwidth, there can be no meaningful utilization of ICT for teaching, learning, research, or management.

The activity proposed below is designed to respond to the interest of the Partnership presidents in assisting to leverage additional bandwidth for the universities that the Partnership supports in Africa by directly approaching one or more satellite companies. If the presidents are to use their influence in a productive way, they need to have sufficient information on four issues:

  • Which companies are selling bandwidth to Africa or would be able to do so;
  • Which companies have spare bandwidth to donate or sell cheaply for use in African universities;
  • Which companies might be amenable to an approach from the Partnership; and
  • Whether access to more bandwidth could be tapped by the universities that the Partnership supports, using their existing or planned infrastructure.

These questions are complicated by the fact that economic, market, and regulatory conditions differ in the six Partnership countries. In South Africa, the university network has been able to work with the government, the higher education sector, Telkom, and the donors to create TENET. In Uganda, there appears to be a burgeoning local market and competition, which is lowering bandwidth costs for everyone. In the remaining countries, universities primarily rely on VSAT systems. It is important to have a better understanding of conditions on the ground in the countries in which the Partnership is active to determine the feasibility and usefulness of intervention.


The objective of this activity is to ascertain whether there is a useful role for the Partnership, particularly the foundation presidents, in leveraging cheaper bandwidth from the satellite companies. At this time, no further Partnership action is envisaged.

At the conference in Addis Ababa, the University of Dar es Salaam volunteered to be responsible for coordinating a follow-up bandwidth activity and for hosting a secretariat. The group will take responsibility for the investigation outlined here.

Terms of reference include:

In Africa

  • Identifying the ways in which telecommunications regulatory conditions, pricing, and marketing impact the higher education community. Highlighting the kinds of policy and regulatory frameworks that must be in place to ensure that the universities can take advantage of any offers made by the satellite companies.
  • Assessing much bandwidth is being used now, how much bandwidth will be required in one year, how much in five years. Projecting to the extent possible bandwidth requirements and what activities bandwidth might be used for. (For example: How much library needs; teaching and research applications)
  • Estimating the types and magnitude of human resource requirements to manage bandwidth and maintain increased use.
  • Identifying how universities might sustain the use of bandwidth. (Can they use the promise of free or cheaper bandwidth to leverage more cooperation within the universities and outside of the universities-within the educational sector, with the government, etc.?)
  • Determining the types of training that will be necessary-technical, managerial, and for academic applications. (Are appropriate mechanisms within the university already in place? If not, what needs to be done?)
  • Assessing the sufficiency of current university infrastructure to support increased bandwidth. (The campus backbone, local area networks, computers, etc.)
  • Assessing the potential for collaboration between universities within and across countries to create national or regional economies of scale for reducing bandwidth costs and increasing opportunities to share material.

Outside Africa

  • Assembling material on ICT status in the relevant Partnership countries, to complement the work carried out by the university representatives to the bandwidth task force.
  • Identifying satellite providers with surplus bandwidth that could be donated or sold more cheaply to the Partnership countries and universities.
  • Determining whether any satellite providers have previously provided free or discounted bandwidth and, if so, how these contracts were negotiated.
  • Making recommendations on how best to approach the satellite companies, including identifying the key points of leverage and the decision makers within the bandwidth companies with whom the Presidents might interact.

Some of this material already exists in print and on the Web. Mike Jensen, a well-known ICT consultant, who maintains the most up-to-date Web site on ICT in Africa, recently completed a case study of Ethiopia for the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), which is a model for the kind of assessments required. ITU also commissioned a similar study for Uganda in 2001. Both studies are on the ITU home page:

In addition, UNECA's Africa Information Society Initiative has country information for each Partnership country. These entries can be found at: Finally, UNECA collaborated with UNESCO and UNDP in convening an ad hoc ICT experts meeting in Nairobi in 2001. Several of the papers prepared for this conference are relevant, including one on ICT for higher education in Ghana and one that examined lessons from Asia and their relevance for Africa.


The investigation will begin on 1 February 2003 and conclude on 31 July 2003. Implementation involves the following components.

  • Creation of a small committee, with representation from each of the Partnership countries:
    • Tanzania: Beda Mutagahywa, Director of the University of Dar es Salaam Computer Centre, and Tolly Mbwette, Professor, Civil Engineering and the Built Environment, University of Dar es Salaam
    • Ghana: Mumuni Dakubu, Director, University of Ghana ICT Centre
    • Mozambique: Venancio Massingue, Deputy Rector, Eduardo Mondlane University
    • Nigeria: Mamman Ibrahim Aminu, Director, University ICT Activities, National Universities Commission
    • South Africa: Derek Keats, Executive Director, Information and Communication Services, University of the Western Cape
    • Uganda: F.F. Tusubira, Director, Directorate for ICT Support, Makerere University
    Each of these individuals was previously selected for the task force at the Addis Ababa meeting in July 2002.
  • In addition, Aida Opoku-Mensah, who is UNECA's Team Leader for Promoting Information Technology for Development, and Mike Jensen, will be added to the committee as resource people. Jensen will concentrate on the political economy and technology of bandwidth from an international perspective. Lisbeth Levey, Partnership Facilitator, will also be appointed, as an ex officio member.
  • The University of Dar es Salaam will establish an e-mail list in February 2003 to begin delineating the parameters and specific terms of reference for country/university surveys.
  • The University of Dar es Salaam will host a meeting in Dar es Salaam in March 2003. Each member of the group will come to the Dar meeting with a draft document for discussion.
  • Following the March meeting, committee members will return to their institutions to continue to work on their assignments. Draft documents will be circulated for review using the email list. Each member's report should be finalized by early May.
  • The University of Dar es Salaam will draft a report to the Partnership following receipt of every member's final report. This report will be ready for review by the team in mid May. At this point, the group might be widened to include one or two experts in the United States.
  • If this investigation provides sufficient basis for consideration of an intervention strategy by the Partnership, there would be a second meeting in New York in June 2003. This gathering would focus specifically on appropriate interventions by Partnership presidents and officers. Up to four members of the investigative team from Africa would attend the New York meeting. One or more outside specialists outside Africa would also be invited to the New York meeting.
  • The final report, which will be a collaborative effort of the entire team and coordinated by the University of Dar es Salaam, will be written and sent to the Partnership in July 2003.



© 2003 Carnegie Corporation of New York, The Ford Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation.

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