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).
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).
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).
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.