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Ethiopia

If Africa Is Left Outside

UN Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN)
October 25, 1999

Addis Ababa - If Africa is left outside the interconnected global economy, it will become a fertile ground for international criminal activities and the drug trade, Ethiopia's Prime Minister Meles Zenawi warned on Sunday.

Addressing a UN-sponsored conference on Africa, globalisation and the information age, Meles warned of a "great danger of marginalisation". He said the "imperative of interdependence" meant that if Africa was marginalised in the "global village", the resulting threats would affect not only Africa, but the international community as well.

UN Deputy Secretary-General Louise Frechette also warned of the danger posed to Africa by changes in the world economy. "Globalisation can be a disruptive force capable of destroying jobs and traditions in the blink of an eye," she told the conference.

But "downside or no downside, this is an ineluctable move that's happening in the world", satellite radio broadcasting entrepreneur Noah Samara told IRIN on Monday. "Africa needs its own tools to build a collective African consciousness in the information revolution," Samara, the chief executive of Worldspace, added.

The potential of the new information and communication technologies in the fields of trade, health, education, food security, tourism, culture, and conflict management has been welcomed in numerous policy statements from African governments and civil society. "Governments, donors and development organisations are rushing to realise the benefits that Internet access promises in the fight against poverty," according to the Panos Institute.

Internet analyst Mike Jensen told IRIN that the almost insignificant availability of telephone, let alone Internet services in Africa, was ironically a potential advantage. "Many Africans have never made a telephone call, let alone surfed the web," he said. But, unburdened by older infrastructure investment, African countries could in theory "leapfrog" outdated systems and install the latest technology which could accommodate both voice and Internet services more cheaply. "Top-level decision makers are more aware of the importance and are more willing to make the policy changes that will allow this to happen," Jensen added.

Over 700 participants are at the five-day Addis Ababa meeting, which opened on Sunday, to help define and promote "African-owned and African-led strategies to engage with the global information economy", the host UN Economic Commission for Africa, said in a statement. Website: http://www.un.org/depts/eca/adf

This item is delivered by the UN's IRIN humanitarian information unit (e- mail: irin@ocha.unon.org; fax: +254 2 622129; Web: http://www.reliefweb.int/IRIN), but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer.


Copyright (c) 1999 UN Integrated Regional Information Network. Distributed via Africa News Online (www.africanews.org). For information about the content or for permission to redistribute, publish or use for broadcast, contact the publisher.

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