The Partnership for
Higher Education in Africa


A Bit of ICT History

The six Partnership countries run the gamut in terms of their ICT capacity, as do the universities represented at the meeting. Some are located in countries with considerable ICT infrastructure, such as South Africa, while the Nigerian universities are just now recovering from decades of neglect. Universities in all of the Partnership countries have been at the forefront of ICT development and utilization in their countries. Some historical information may be in order here:


In 1995, the Balme Library of the University of Ghana, Legon, became responsible for a nationwide Fidonet store-and-forward email system, which was funded through the PADIS. This network was one of the first in Ghana.2


Mozambique became the second country in sub-Saharan Africa outside of South Africa to achieve full Internet connectivity when Eduardo Mondlane University (UEM) went online in 1995 with a connection to Rhodes University in South Africa. UEM was the only Internet Service Provider (ISP) in Mozambique for several years. UEM has also been closely involved with the government in establishing a national ICT policy; university staff were responsible for workshops in every province in Mozambique to explain the draft policy and to get input from local communities. UEM has been at the forefront of Mozambique’s telecenter movement as well.3


The history of Internet in Nigeria is spotty and anecdotal, but two or three Nigerian universities stand out as trailblazers. As early as 1990, McMaster University in Canada helped the University of Ilorin Faculty of Health Sciences obtain email capability. The method was simple, and it worked—twice a week someone from McMaster called the Ilorin Computer Centre to establish voice contact, after which data transfer took place. Thus, the Faculty of Health Sciences was able to send and receive email messages.4 In addition, one of the first broadbased email points established in Nigeria was through the Yaba College of Technology in 1993, thus providing users willing to dial in to Yaba with email access.

South Africa

The first “ping,” i.e., the first time a true online Internet connection was established, was in 1992 at Rhodes University. Rhodes University is also noteworthy because it was the first gateway for UNINET, South Africa’s research and academic network, and because it also permitted universities in southern Africa to use the gateway at no cost.5


In Tanzania, the first email system was established at the University of Dar es Salaam Medical College through HealthNet; a second email node was placed on the main campus through the same IDRC-funded project that supported Makerere University’s early email efforts. The university then started to provide email services to the university community, the government, and other users. This was followed by full Internet in 1995.


Email Email had its start in Uganda in 1991, when Makerere University joined a project supported by IDRC to provide FIDONET email capability to university computer centers in five African countries. MUKLANET served e mail users inside and outside of the university community until other forms of access became available in Uganda.6

Aida Opoku-Mensah, Team Leader, Promoting Information Technology
for African Development, UNECA
"Governments are the policy-makers and should create an enabling environment, and the policy makers need to develop an awareness of the importance of ICT. This is not always the case. Universities can help their countries prepare for ICT. They should participate in national policy reviews by conducting policy and bandwidth research."

Although universities in the Partnership countries have been ICT leaders in many ways, they have not always played roles in the articulation of national ICT planning. Some have, of course, and Mozambique stands out in this regard.Because this is such a critical issue to national development, the place of universities at the “policy-making table” came up for sustained analysis several times during the workshop and is discussed in more detail in the next chapter.

All participants were asked to prepare background material on the status of ICT in their countries, universities and consortia before the meeting. (Go to Appendix Three for a list of topics that each university was asked to provide.) The tables below are a consolidation of the information participants provided together with data from the Internet Connectivity Web site maintained by Mike Jensen and the Africa Information Society Initiative (AISI). The sections on the South African Research Network, AAU, and IUCEA are also based on materials participants prepared for the meeting. A selection of these reports will be found on the Partnership Web site. AISI’s home page on national ICT status and planning is located at The Jensen site is at

ICT at the National Level

ICT Planning and Capability
Ghana The government of Ghana is in the process of formulating its national ICT policy and is also drawing up action plans for implementation. There are eight commercial Internet service providers in Ghana, with dial-up service to local telephone numbers in six cities outside of Accra. Users outside of these locations must make a trunk call to Accra for access to the Internet. The University of Ghana is also coordinating a national universities network, which is not yet fully operational. In addition, there are over 150 Internet cafés in the country, approximately 90 percent of them in Accra.
Mozambique7 The government of Mozambique approved a National Information Policy in December 2000. There are about ten commercial ISPs, but only a few of them have national coverage. Those that do, offer local dial-up service in nine cities in addition to Maputo. Eduardo Mondlane University also offers a not-for-profit Internet service, but users must dial in to Maputo. There are numberous Internet cafés, particularly in Maputo, and two telecenters, which serve as community access points.
Namibia8 The government of Namibia recently ratified a National ICT policy, which promotes universal access to the Internet and the utilization of ICT. To that end, Telcom Namibia recently introduced a new national dial-up number series, known as “Internet calls,” with a charge of 20 percent less than the normal local tariff. ISPs have made use of this service to extend their connectivity to any point in the country where there is a telephone line. This means that Internet connectivity in Namibia is now nationwide. There are currently four ISPs that offer ISDN connectivity at either 64k or 128k, as well as the more common analogue (56k) connection. One ISP offers broadband connectivity via satellite, making use of the customer’s DSTV (satellite TV) dish and an additional card that connects the satellite decoder to the PC. The University of Namibia was the first institution in Namibia to be connected to the Internet.
Nigeria Although the government of Nigeria produced a National Policy on Telecommunications in 1998, there is no national ICT policy yet. The National Communications Commission (NCC) has licensed 38 ISPs, but only 12 are active; they provide dial-up services in six cities in addition to Lagos. Of all of the Partnership countries, Nigeria is the most handicapped in terms of its ICT infrastructure, including unreliable telephone lines and electrical power.
South Africa South Africa is among the top 20 countries in the world when ranked by the number of Internet nodes. The number of users in South Africa is about 30 times larger than Egypt, the next largest African country in terms of Internet. South Africa is also noteworthy because it has full Internet capability throughout the country. There are ten "top level" ISPs with their own leased lines and numerous "second-level" ISPs that rent bandwidth from a "top level" provider. South Africa has dial-up services throughout the country. South Africa also has advanced data service capability-ISDN, GPRS, and Frame Relay. South Africa's universities are networked through the Tertiary Education Network (TENET).9
Tanzania10 Tanzania reformed and deregulated the telecommunications sector in 1993. A number of workshops have been held under the UNECA National Information and Communications Infrastructure (NICI) framework; a draft National ICT Policy for Tanzania was produced in April 2002 and published on the Ministry's Web site for public comment. Subsequently, in 2003, the policy document was adopted as a government white paper. There are 11 commercial ISPs, including one on Zanzibar island, with dial-up services in Dar es Salaam and major cities. Services are being planned for towns without Internet. The University of Dar es Salaam is also an ISP.
Uganda11 Uganda adopted a Telecommunications Sector Policy in 1996 and passed a Telecommunications Act in 1997. UNDP is supporting work on creating an ICT National Policy. A draft policy has been completed and will be tabled before Cabinet for adoption. There are five major Internet Service Providers in three cities—Kampala, Jinja, and Mbarara. Uganda also has advanced data service capability—ISDN and DSL lines.


University home pages and ICT
Most of the universities participating in the workshop have home pages, with details on the university, admissions, faculties and departments. Some of them also provide detailed information on ICT strategic planning and implementation. Makerere, Dar es Salaam, and Eduardo Mondlane are three universities that use their Web sites for this purpose.

With the exception of South Africa, ICT implementation in Partnership countries began before strategic plans were written. In most instances, email was the first development, followed by other applications. Of the Partnership universities, Eduardo Mondlane University took the lead, followed soon thereafter by the University of Dar es Salaam. Makerere University learned from the experience of the first two. In turn, the University of Namibia has benefited from Makerere. Informal networks are growing, with one university helping the other.

The table below summarizes the ICT status of universities participating in the workshop.

ICT Status
Bayero University, Nigeria ICT plans are incorporated into Bayero University’s overall strategic plan. The university established a small Local Area Network (LAN) in 1997/98, with three computers, one of which was used by the entire university to send and receive email. Since then, the university has installed several LANs, and email capacity has improved considerably. The university has two Internet cafés. One has a dial-up connection; the other is connected to the ISP with a wireless link. One café has 56Kbps capacity, the other 64 Kbps. There is some networking on campus, but no campus backbone yet.
Eduardo Mondlane University, Mozambique Eduardo Mondlane University adopted its first Information Technology Policy and Master Plan in 1992. In 1998 UEM adopted a strategic plan that recognized ICT as an important tool for all sectors of the university. A second ICT plan was developed in 2000. Although it has not yet been approved officially, it is being used as a working document. UEM has a fiber optics cable in place on the main campus, with radio links to other university locations. There is a VSAT on the main campus, which was due to be upgraded in August to 1Mbps/512 Kbps. There are local area networks in each faculty, but not each department. The cost of the VSAT is about $12,000 a month. By switching to a new provider, UEM will receive more bandwidth at lower cost.
Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Ghana The university has established a number of computer labs in the main library and five other locations. Plans are underway to install a campus backbone, when funding becomes available. In addition, the university is planning to install a VSAT, at a cost of $4,500 a month, for an uplink of 64Kbps and a downlink of 512 Kbps.
Makerere University, Uganda Makerere University started its ICT strategic planning process only within the last two years, but it has had the benefit of learning from other universities in the region, such as Dar es Salaam and Eduardo Mondlane. Overall, ICT planning has addressed the lack of awareness within the university of the benefits of ICT. The challenge has been to senstitize university administrators and staff to the advantages of using ICT effectively. The university has a 1500/786 Kbps leased Internet Point of Presence (POP) at an annual cost of $270,000, which includes a Value Added Tax of 17 percent, using two different national telecommunications operators. This is currently cheaper than it would be if the university had its own VSAT. The university has a campus backbone, with links to each of the faculties. Not every department has its own network, however.
Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria The Vice Chancellor and other senior administrators have been involved in all aspects of decision-making pertaining to ICT. The university currently has a VSAT, with a bandwidth of 512Kbps/128Kbps, for which it spends $153,600 annually. Plans are in place to upgrade to a downlink of 1Mps. There is a campus backbone, mainly wireless, and almost every department is networked. The university teaching hospital, which is outside the main campus, is linked to the network by radio. Faculty housing and the conference center guesthouses are also connected. The university has also put in place eight Internet cafés.
University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania The University of Dar es Salaam went through a strategic planning process from 1995-96. ICT was an integral part of this process, with leadership coming from the Vice Chancellor, who chaired the ICT Steering Committee. The head of the computer center served as secretary and all deans and directors were represented on the committee.
There are two international gateways; one is a backup. There is a VSAT on campus with a bandwidth of 512Kbps/1Mbps, at a cost of $9,500 per month. There is also a leased line, which costs $7,800 per month for 256Kbps/512 Kbps bandwidth. The main campus and the two college campuses have fiber optic backbone networks connecting all buildings. One campus is linked to the main campus by an optical fiber link, while another campus is linked by an 11 Mbps wireless link. All departments have local area networks. In addition, the student residence halls on the main campus are linked to the backbone network.
University of Ghana, Ghana
The university computer center oversees implementation of ICT on the campus with the assistance of a steering committee chaired by the Vice Chancellor.
There is a fiber optics campus backbone, with links to some, but not all, departments. (The library is connected to the backbone.) There is a VSAT in place, with an uplink of 512Kbps and a downlink of 1024 Kbps. The university pays Emperion of Denmark a monthly payment of $10,400 for this service. Ku-band frequency is used.
University of Jos, Nigeria ICT at the University of Jos receives considerable support from the university's administration, which is involved in all facets of implementation. Jos has a VSAT, with a connection of 64/128 Kbps, at a cost of $4,332 per month. There is a fiber optics backbone, with some LANs. Because electricity supply is so unreliable, Jos uses solar power as a backup system.
University of Namibia, Namibia The University of Namibia began its strategic planning process in October 2001, and found Makerere University's guidelines helpful.
The University of Namibia Windhoek campus uses two ISPs-one for Internet, with a 384k leased line, and the other for email, with a 64k leased line. Everything is routed through the Windhoek telephone exchange. The university's other centers have 64k leased lines to the telephone exchange closest to them; data is then routed through the Windhoek main campus (via the Windhoek exchange). The university also has an extensive video conference network for its Windhoek, Neudamm, Oshakati, and Ogongo campuses. UNAM does not yet have an ICT strategic plan, but a draft policy is now ready for consideration by the University Senate. There are already guidelines for the purchase of hardware, software, and the use of the computer center.

South Africa is not included in this table because South African universities benefit from full connectivity through the Tertiary Education Network ( The origins and birth of TENET are discussed in more detail below.

Because of the size of Nigeria's higher education system, which is comparable to that of South Africa, we asked our Nigerian colleagues to provide a brief overview of Internet capacity for the sector. Among their points were:

  • Nigeria has a total of 52 universities—26 federal, 19 state, and seven private universities. There are also four autonomous inter-university centers.
  • Thirty-eight of the 52 universities have registered Internet domain names, but only nine of them have real-time full Internet connectivity—eight of them via VSAT.
  • The federal universities at Ife, Jos, Sokoto, Benin, Calabar, Uyo, Abeokuta, and Nsukka have VSATs. The Pan-African University, a private university in Lagos, has a radio link to a local ISP and a LAN on its Lagos Business School campus.
  • Cost data for bandwidth is presently available for four of the eight universities with VSATs (Ife, Jos, Nsukka, and Sokoto). It ranges from $16-$23 per Kbps per month.
  • Bandwidth availability is highest at Obafemi Owolowo University in Ife (with 512 Kbps on the down link and 128 Kbps on the uplink) and lowest for Nsukka and Benin, both of which have 128 Kbps on the downlink and 64 Kbps on the uplink.

ICT Snapshots from Nigeria

Repairing computers at Bayero University
In-house technical staff routinely handle hard disk problems, malfunctioning cards, faulty monitors, power-related problems, and viruses. All repairs are entered into a log book for future analysis. Although the university does not yet formally involve students in repairs, interested students sometimes find their way to the lab to help out.







Photo by Ality Photo Prof


Making computers work when the power goes out...
At the University of Jos, the computer room works, even if the electricity goes out: a solar panel, inverters, and a battery system can do the trick when the electricity fails.

Photos below by Len Liverpool




The South African Research Network

The development of academic networking in South Africa was not without its vicissitudes. During the period from 1985-1987, a few individual universities, most notably Rhodes, began to experiment with dial-up email and networking on a limited basis. Rhodes University also helped other universities in southern Africa, such as Eduardo Mondlane University and the University of Malawi, to go online by serving as their Internet gateway.

In 1987 South Africa's Foundation for Research and Development (FRD) provided the initial seed money and infrastructure to establish a research and academic network called UNINET. UNINET served the country's tertiary sector until its responsibilities were taken over by the Tertiary Education NETwork (TENET) in 2001.

Landmarks in South African Academic Networking
  • Pre-1987: Some, but not all, universities have dial up connections to the Internet.
  • 1987: The Foundation for Research and Development (FRD) provides seed money to establish UNINET.
  • 1989-1999: UNINET establishes dial-up services for South African and other universities in the region.
  • 1991: UNINET establishes South Africa’s first TCP/IP link to the Internet.
  • 2001: UNINET closes on 31 January, and TENET takes over.

UNINET was run as a cooperative effort among South Africa's higher education institutions (both universities and technikons), without direct government funding. The FRD contributed 10 percent of its budget, and UNINET members put in the remainder. Throughout its existence, inadequate funding to buy sufficient bandwidth hampered UNINET's ability to provide services. This was exacerbated by the lack of support from Telkom, South Africa's telecommunication's giant.

Principles of TENET
  • TENET is owned by the higher education sector and is a non-profit company.
  • TENET acts as an agent for the higher education sector by negotiating a single set of pricing packages and collecting the money to pay Telkom.
  • Bandwidth costs have gone down by one third since the establishment of TENET.

The planning process for creating TENET built on UNINET's strengths and learned from its weaknesses. Vice chancellors, senior academic administrators, including librarians, assumed ownership of the TENET concept from the outset.

Donors assisted grantee universities in establishing a strong and knowledgeable team to negotiate better rates with Telkom. The universities explained to Telkm that they stood the risk of losing further donor funding if bandwidth did not improve because the donors would only provide bandwidth-intensive resources if they could be used. Through the university consortium’s education of Telkom, Telkom came to understand that favorable treatment for higher education was in the country’s best interest and that it would not lose money in the arrangement. Bandwidth costs would come down, but the amount of bandwidth purchased would increase. Telkom’s profit margin was therefore not adversely affected by the new arrangement. Thus, although the negotiations required a considerable time investment, Telkom and the universities now have a good working relationship.

Association of African Universities

The Association of African Universities (AAU) is a pan-African organization that was founded in 1967 and is located in Accra. It promotes cooperation between universities in Africa and between African universities and the international academic community. More than 100 universities belong to the AAU.

The AAU has recognized the importance of ICT to education for many years and has carried out the following ICT related activities:

  • Collaboration with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in the organization of a workshop on Electronic Networking for West African Universities in December 1993
  • Implementation of email capacity in the office of African university vice chancellors in 1996. The goal was to provide training and connectivity to universities without their own connections to email.
  • Creation and implementation of the Database of African Theses and Dissertations (DATAD). (DATAD is discussed in more detail below.)
  • Organization of a technical meeting of experts at the University of Dar es Salaam in the year 2000.
    • Inclusion of ICT in the AAU Core Program at the Tenth General Conference in January 2001.
  • Publication of the Dar es Salaam technical meeting report and an institutional self-assessment guide in print and on the Web in 2001. Go to


The Database of African Theses and Dissertations is an AAU “core program.” Established in 2000, DATAD is a management and dissemination tool for theses and dissertations completed in African universities. There are currently 11 participating institutions; more will be added in phase two of the project. Each DATAD record contains a complete citation, including a full abstract, keywords, and local terms. Over 12,000 records have been entered thus far. DATAD is unique—it is African and the records are more detailed than any other bibliographic database of theses and dissertations. DATAD is available online and on CD-ROM for African universities in slow bandwidth countries. You will find more information on DATAD on the AAU home page. See

Inter-University Council of East Africa

The Inter-University Council of East Africa (IUCEA) was established in 1970 with the mandate of fostering higher education within the East African Community (EAC). Its activities were adversely affected, however, following the collapse of the EAC in the late seventies. IUCEA was revitalized in 1998; it works with institutions of higher learning in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda, and is located in Kampala.

The process of recreating IUCEA included a thorough analysis of its ICT requirements and those of its members. As a first step, IUCEA carried out an internal ICT needs assessment, which resulted in creating a local area network, establishing a viable email system, and creating a home page. Having met its technology needs, IUCEA began to examine the needs of its member universities. It carried out a pilot survey between December 2001 and February 2002 at selected universities to assess their ICT infrastructure and future requirements. Two universities in each member counry—Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda—were selected. IUCEA expects to continue and to expand upon this work.

2. Christine Kisiedu tells the strory of "Bringing e-mail to Ghana" in Rowing Upstream.

3. The Mozambique story is told by Venancio Massingue and by Narciso Matos in Rowing Upstream.

4. Omenogo Meijabi, “The Electronic Mail Link between the University of Ilorin and McMaster University,” Electronic Networking in Africa: Workshop on Science and Technology Communication Networks in Africa. Nairobi, Kenya, August 27-29, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Washington, DC, 1992.

5. See Mike Lawrie, "UNINET-ZA Networking Experience from the Beginning until December 1993” in Electronic Networking for West African Universities, Association of African Universities/American Association for the Advancement of Science, Washington, DC, 1994. In addition, go to his story in Rowing Upstream:

6. The MUKLANET story is told in Rowing Upstream.

7. Perhaps because Mozambique began to develop Internet capacity so early, there are voluminous resources about ICT development in that country. In addition to the sources cited above, the government of Mozambique has mounted its own site on national policy:

8. Namibia is included in this table because two resource people from the University of Namibia attended the meeting.

9. Go to for a history of the development from UNINET to TENET.

10. See, Tanzania’s ICT Task Force Home Page, to read a copy of the draft ICT policy. (Professor Mathew Luhanga, Vice Chancellor of the University of Dar es Salaam and a telecommunications engineer, is chair of the Task Force.

11. The United Nations Development Program in Kampala maintains an ICT home page, where you can find the draft ICT policy. It is at:

© 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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