Press Releases

SG/SM/8496
AFR/516
18 November 2002

INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGIES A PRIORITY
FOR AFRICA'S DEVELOPMENT, SAYS SECRETARY-GENERAL

NEW YORK, 15 November (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the message of Secretary-General Kofi Annan to mark Africa Industrialization Day, 20 November 2002:

The theme of this year’s observance -- "The Industrialization of Africa and the New Information and Communication Technologies" -- is meant to underscore the importance of the digital revolution in Africa’s efforts to alleviate poverty and achieve industrial development.

Africa continues to face serious obstacles in this area, including weaknesses in human resources, infrastructure and institutions, governance problems, and tariffs that discourage the production of processed goods and restrict their access to global markets. While information and communication technologies (ICTs) cannot address all of these problems, they can do much to place Africa on firmer industrial footing.

Information technologies are a fundamental part of industrial development. They can improve the efficiency of production systems. And they can connect distant locations with each other, reducing transportation and communication costs.

But it is not just that the information content of industrial activities is rising rapidly. ICTs can make valuable information about market opportunities available to African producers, while at the same time building up the capacity of African producers to market their products -- for example, by linking African industrial and trade centres with their counterparts in the rest of the world. ICTs can also strengthen the continent’s human resources, with training that leads to sustainable livelihoods, distance learning that connects remote and rural areas, and by bringing high-quality medical information within reach, helping in the fight against deadly and debilitating diseases such as HIV/AIDS.

The development of ICTs is one of the priorities of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). African governments must ensure they are doing their utmost to help their peoples seize the opportunities offered by the digital revolution. Developed countries, as partners in NEPAD, must support these efforts. I urge the private sector in particular to look closely at investment opportunities in Africa, and work with governments and international organizations to create conditions that will be conducive to investment. The United Nations system and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization will likewise do their part to ensure that ICTs serve the continent’s efforts towards industrial development and the wider quest for progress and peace.

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