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Africa’s participation in the International Telecommunication Union

Actors form all African countries participate in ITU activities. In addition to specialised ministries or agencies, there is also participation from academic institutions, telecom operators, ISPs, and other private entities.
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ITU membership and participation in Sectors

All African countries have participation at the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). For 20 of them, this is done solely through specialised ministries (dealing with telecommunications/electronic communications, digitalisation, or ICT) and/or national agencies/authorities. For 34 countries, actors participating in ITU also include academic institutions, telecom operators (private or state-owned), internet service providers, and/or other private entities.

Among the eight focus countries, South Africa has the highest number of overall ITU members (11)1This is very low compared with the countries at the top of the ranking: USA (118) and China (86). and is followed by Cote d’Ivoire (8), Nigeria (7), Kenya (6), Ghana (5), Namibia, Rwanda, and Senegal (3 each) (Figure 27). With the exception of Namibia, all other countries have at least one ITU member that is an academic institution, a national standards developing organisation (SDO), a telecom operator, an ISP, or other private entity (Figure 28). Namibia and Rwanda are the only two countries with no Sector members or associates involved in the work of ITU Sectors.2ITU has three specialised Sectors: The Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R) contributes to the global management of the radio frequency spectrum and satellite orbit resources and develops standards for radiocommunication systems; the Telecommunication Standardization Sector (ITU-T) develops international technical standards for ICTs; and the Development Sector (ITU-D) focuses on promoting access to telecommunications. In addition to member states, ITU Sectors are also open to participation from industry, academia, and NGOs, as well as regional and international organisations. These can join as Sector members – with the right to participate across all activities of the Sector, associates – which can participate in one study group, or academia.

Figure 27. Number of ITU members by country (October 2022).

Figure 28. Type of ITU members by country (October 2022).

At ITU-T, standardisation work is carried out through study groups (SGs). Within the 11 SGs currently active, entities (in most cases ministries or regulators) from 11 African countries hold SG chair or vice-chair positions (Table 5). That these entities have put forward candidates for such positions reflects their interest in being involved in the development of international standards.

Table 5. Countries with entities holding leadership positions within ITU-T SGs (October 2022). 

Country SG Entity holding SG leadership position
Algeria SG13 – Future networks [Vice-chair] Algerian Regulator of Post and Electronic Communication
SG15 – Transport, access, and home [Vice-chair] Algérie Télécom
SG17 – Security [Vice-chair] Algérie Télécom
SG20 – IoT, smart cities, and​ communities [Vice-chair] Ministry of Post and Telecommunications
Central African Republic SG5 – Environment, EMF, and circular economy [Vice-chair] Telecommunications Regulatory Agency
SG9 – Broadband cable and TV [Vice-chair] Ministry of Post, Telecommunications, and New Information and Communications Technologies
SG15​ – Transport, access, and home [Vice-chair] Ministry of Post, Telecommunications, and New Information and Communications Technologies
SG16 – Multimedia and digital technologies [Vice-chair] Ministry of Post, Telecommunications, and New Information and Communications Technologies
Egypt SG2 – Operational aspects [Vice-chair] National Telecommunication Regulatory Authority
SG3 – Economic and policy issues [Chair] National Telecommunication Regulatory Authority
SG5 – Environment, EMF, and circular economy [Vice-chair] Ministry of Communications and Information Technology
SG17 – Security [Vice-chair] National Telecommunication Regulatory Authority
SG20 – IoT, smart cities, and​ communities [Vice-chair] National Telecommunication Regulatory Authority
Ghana SG2 – Operational aspects [Vice-chair] National Communications Authority
SG3 – Economic and policy issues [Vice-chair] National Communications Authority
SG11 – Protocols, testing, and combating counterfeiting [Vice-chair] National Communications Authority
SG17 – Security [Vice-chair] National Communications Authority
Nigeria SG12 – Performance, QoS, and QoE [Vice-chair] Nigerian Communications Commission
Rwanda SG3 – Economic and policy issues [Vice-chair] Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority
SG12 – Performance, QoS, and QoE [Vice-chair] Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority
SG13 – Future networks [Vice-chair] Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority
Senegal SG3 – Economic and policy issues [Vice-chair] Société Nationale des Télécommunications
SG20 – IoT, smart cities, and​ communities [Vice-chair] Ministry of Digital Economy and Telecommunications
Sudan SG11 – Protocols, testing, and combating counterfeiting [Vice-chair] Telecommunications and Post Regulatory Authority
SG12 – Performance, QoS, and QoE [Vice-chair] Telecommunication and Post Regulatory Authority
Tunisia SG3 – Economic and policy issues [Vice-chair] National Telecommunications Authority
SG11 – Protocols, testing, and combating counterfeiting [Vice-chair] Telecommunications Studies and Research Centre
SG13 – Future networks [Vice-chair] Tunisie Télécom
SG16 – Multimedia and digital technologies [Vice-chair] National Tunisian Broadcasting Office
SG17 – Security [Vice-chair] Ministry of Education
Tanzania SG20 – IoT, smart cities, and communities [Vice-chair] Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority
Zambia SG12 – Performance, QoS, and QoE [Vice-chair] Zambia Information and Communication Technology Authority
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At ITU-R, where there are 6 SGs focusing on radio communication matters (including, but not limited to standards), entities from 14 African countries hold vice-chair positions (Table 6).  

Table 6. Countries with entities holding leadership positions within ITU-R SGs (October 2022).

Country SG Entity holding SG leadership position
Algeria SG 4 – Satellite services [Vice-chair] National Agency for Frequencies)
Burkina Faso SG 4 – Satellite services [Vice-chair] Regulatory Authority for Electronic Communications and Post
Côte d'Ivoire SG 4 – Satellite services [Vice-chair] Agency for Management of Radioelectric Frequencies
SG 5 – Terrestrial services [Vice-chair] Agency for Management of Radioelectric Frequencies
Egypt SG 1 – ​​Spectrum management [Chair] National Telecommunication Regulatory Authority
SG 5 – Terrestrial services [Vice-chair] National Telecommunication Regulatory Authority
SG 7 – Science services [Vice-chair] National Telecommunication Regulatory Authority
Gabon SG 7 – Science services [Vice-chair] Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy
Ghana SG 4 – Satellite services [Vice-chair] National Communications Authority
Kenya SG 1 – ​​Spectrum management [Vice-chair] Communications Authority
SG 6 – Broadcasting service [Vice-chair] Communications Authority
Mali SG 1 – ​​Spectrum management [Vice-chair] Regulatory Authority for Telecommunications and Post
Morocco SG 3 – Radiowave propagation [Vice-chair] National Telecommunications Regulatory Agency
SG 4 – Satellite services [Vice-chair] National Telecommunications Regulatory Agency
SG 5 – Terrestrial services [Vice-chair] National Telecommunications Regulatory Agency
SG 6 – Broadcasting service [Vice-chair] National Telecommunications Regulatory Agency
SG 7 – Science services [Vice-chair] National Telecommunications Regulatory Agency
Nigeria SG 6 – Broadcasting service [Vice-chair] National Broadcasting Commission
SG 7 – Science services [Vice-chair] Nigerian Airspace Management Agency
Sudan SG 5 – Terrestrial services [Vice-chair] National Telecommunications Corporation
Tanzania SG 6 – Broadcasting service [Vice-chair] Communications Regulatory Authority
Togo SG 3 – Radiowave propagation​ [Vice-chair] Regulatory Authority for Post and Telecommunications
Tunisia SG 5 – Terrestrial services [Vice-chair] National Agency for Frequencies
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ITU-D has only two SGs; entities from six African countries hold leadership positions within these groups (Table 7). 

Table 7. Countries with entities holding leadership positions within ITU-D SGs (October 2022).

Country SG Entity holding SG leadership position
Côte d'Ivoire SG 1 – Enabling environment for meaningful connectivity [Chair] Regulatory Authority for Telecommunications
Egypt SG 2 – ICT services and applications for the promotion of sustainable development [Chair] National Telecommunication Regulatory Authority
Guinea SG 2 – ICT services and applications for the promotion of sustainable development [Vice-chair] National Regulatory Authority for Post and Telecommunications
Nigeria SG 2 – ICT services and applications for the promotion of sustainable development [Vice-chair] Nigerian Communications Commission
Togo SG 1 – Enabling environment for meaningful connectivity [Vice-chair] Regulatory Authority for Post and Telecommunications
Zimbabwe SG1 – Enabling environment for meaningful connectivity [Vice-chair] Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority
WP DataTables

Participation in the ITU Council

Besides participation in study groups, countries’ interest in ITU work is also reflected by their involvement in the ITU Council activities. The Council acts as the Union’s governing body in the interval between plenipotentiary conferences. For the period 2019–2022, the 13 seats on the Council allocated to the African region were held by Algeria, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Tunisia, and Uganda. Some of these countries also held leadership roles within ITU Council working groups and expert groups (Table 8). At the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference 2022 (PP-22), the following countries were elected as Council members for the 2023–2026 period: Algeria, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Morocco, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Tunisia, and Uganda.

Table 8. Countries’ participation in the ITU Council and Council WGs and expert groups.3At the date of writing this study, the leadership of Council WGs and expert groups for the 2023–2026 period had not been elected.

Country Seat on Council (2019–2022) Seat on Council (2023–2026) Leadership roles within Council WGs and expert groups (2019–2022)
Algeria Yes Yes
Burkina Faso Yes
Côte d’Ivoire Yes [Vice-chair] Expert group on ITRs
Regulatory Authority for Telecommunications/ICT
Egypt Yes Yes [Vice-chair] Expert group on ITRs
National Telecommunication Regulatory Authority
[Vice-chair] Expert group on Decision 482
National Telecommunication Regulatory Authority
Ghana Yes Yes
Kenya Yes Yes [Vice-chair] CWG for strategic and financial plans for 2024-2027
Communications Authority of Kenya
Mauritius Yes
Morocco Yes Yes
Nigeria Yes Yes [Vice-chair] CWG-Child online protection
Nigeria Communications Commission
Rwanda Yes Yes [Vice-chair] CWG-WSIS & SDGs
Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority
Senegal Yes Yes [Vice-chair] CWG on financial and human resources
Regulatory Authority for Telecommunications and Post
South Africa Yes Yes [Vice-chair] CWG-Internet
Department of Communications and Digital Technologies
Tanzania Yes
Tunisia Yes Yes [Chair] CWG on the use of the six official languages
Ministry of Communications Technologies and Digital Economy
Uganda Yes Yes
Zambia No [Chair] Expert group on ITRs
Zambia Information and Communications Technology Authority
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African contributions to ITU Plenipotentiary Conference 2022

In the context of ITU PP-22, African countries – through the African Telecommunications Union (ATU) – submitted 42 contributions, most of them being proposals for revising existing ITU resolutions or adopting new resolutions. Topics covered by such proposals range from AI to cybersecurity and from the use of ICTs to bridge the financial gap to outer space activities. For instance, a draft new resolution on AI suggested that ITU takes a more active role in AI-related issues through actions such as developing a toolkit to assist member states in establishing an AI ecosystem, as well as mechanisms to assist developing countries in mitigating AI-related risks. When it comes to the review of the International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs) – an issue ITU member states have divergent opinions on – the view of African countries was that the ITRs should be completely revised, so as to harmonise their 1988 and 2012 versions and to keep them aligned with technological and market developments. In a draft new resolution on outer space, ATU members suggested that ITU should (a) foster international cooperation to ensure that the benefits of space are brought to everyone, and (b) engage in activities to strengthen the capacities of developing countries in space law.