VOL:1 ISSN:3 The Vice President of The Republic of The Gambia has described the 11th Ordinary Meeting of RASCOM Assembly of Parties as crucial and timely for a continent eager to bridge the digital divide and become a strategic player in world affairs.
Dr. Isatou Njie Saidy was speaking on behalf of President Jammeh on 7th December, 2009 at the Kairaba Beach Hotel. She stressed that the Government of The Gambia is deeply gratified by the strides initiated by RASCOM to implement a satellite network for Africa.
“For us in The Gambia, the creation of such a superstructure is an assurance to boost our drive towards attaining the middle income country status in line with the objectives of our National Vision 2020,” she declared.
The Vice President re-echoed her stance during the 7th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of African Union Heads of States and Government Summit held in Banjul in July, 2005 and the predecessor Conference in Sirte, Libya, that it was time a Pan African Union Satellite System comes to provide complete connectivity for the entire continent.
She argued that the realisation of this proposal, its effective implementation by RASCOM with the continuous support that is being provided by member states rekindles her trust and confidence in the social, political and economic future of the African continent.
“The launch of the RASCOM Star 1 Satellite in December 2007 has resolved to promote Pan-Africanism and the integration they seek as a Union; presents huge opportunities that would enable them to take full control of their affairs; and to promote the continent’s identity as a safe heaven for quality investment and business.”
According to her, notwithstanding the initial and often unavoidable teething technical hitches associated with maiden satellite lunches, the satellite has begun commercial operations in August 2008.
She pointed out that the continent’s ICT requirements are enormous and therefore there is the need for a closer review of options to increase the satellite coverage and density. “This is a challenge both for RASCOM and Member States given the huge amount of resources that would be required to launch more satellites, urging for a greater show of commitment and solidarity necessary to leverage and mobilise additional funds in support of a diffused satellite technology and access for the continent.
The Director General or Chief Executive Officer RASCOM, Dr. Jones A. Killimbe said they are living in a global information society where communication and knowledge are vital tools for the creation of wealth and prosperity for our continent.
In Africa, he said that there is only one fixed broad band subscriber for every 1,000 people compared to Europe where there are 200 subscribers for every 1, 000 people. “Africa has the lowest internet penetration rate in the world and it spends over $500 million a year on internet local traffic transit,” he said.
According to him, RASCOM is the only continental ICT project which cuts across the whole continent. It is for this reason that we appeal fort more political will from our leaders in support of this project.
However, the launching of the new satellite project was not free of shortcomings as he state thus: “As we are aware, after the successful launch of the our satellite, it experienced some technical problems associated with the leakage of the helium gas, which is meant to manoeuvre the satellite in the geostationary orbit.”
In line with the risk management scheme which was put in place, he said that the incidence obliged the insurance firms to pay for the manufacture, lunch and insurance of the replacement of the satellite.