|Issue:||Africa and the Middle East 1999|
|Topic:||Cheetah Poll-Vaulting’ into the New Millenium|
|Author:||Hamadoun I. Touré|
|Title:||Director Telecommunication Development Bureau|
|Organisation:||International Telecommunication Union|
Spectacular is the way I would characterise the reforms made in the African region throughout the 1990s. The decade began with virtually all monopoly providers, only two countries with private participation in the incumbent operator, two countries with separate regulatory authorities, and a telephone density slightly over one. The decade will end with 14 % having introduced competition in basic service, and nearly 50 % having liberalised mobile cellular. A total of nineteen countries have set up regulatory authorities, making the percentage of African countries with regulators higher than Europe. Fifteen countries have privatised their operators, with another seven anticipated over the next year. Internet growth is flourishing. Internet host computers are growing at an average annual rate of 73 %. Telephone density is nearing two percent with the number of main telephone lines growing at 8.6% per year. While the region may have a long way to go, the progress made in the 90s and the resulting domino effect, will certainly spill-over well into the next millennium. Initiatives such as the African Connection, which was launched in 1998, to harmonise infrastructure and management of telecommunications and information technology across Africa, will help to ensure that the expression of cheetah poll-vaulting becomes a reality for all nations of Africa.