Guest article by Commissioner Bocar Ba: SAMENA Leaders’ Summit 2024

Contributed by:

Commissioner Bocar Ba
CEO SAMENA Telecommunications Council

A Landmark Event for Digital Inclusion

The SAMENA Telecommunications Council Leaders’ Summit 2024 took place on May 13th, 2024, at Atlantis – The Palm, Dubai. This premier annual event brought together more than 400 top-level executives, regulators, policymakers, and industry professionals from South Asia, the Middle East, North Africa, Asia, the US, Europe, and beyond to discuss the future of digital development and telecommunications. Designed to foster collaborative thought leadership, the summit aimed to address the complexities of the digital ecosystem and identify strategies that contribute to national socio-economic development and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

This year’s summit was distinguished by the presence of prominent Broadband Commissioners, including Bocar Ba, CEO of SAMENA Council; Prof. Dr. Jeffrey Sachs, President, UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network; Ms. Isabelle Mauro, Director General of GSOA; and Mr. Lacina Koné, CEO of Smart Africa, as well as representatives from GSMA, MTN and Digicel. Their participation underscored the summit’s importance in shaping the future of digital connectivity and inclusion.

A key highlight of the event was the ICT & Financing Roundtable, which focused on innovative financing models for broadband infrastructure. The discussions revolved around unlocking access to capital through broadening the contributor base, which involves diversifying the stakeholders and contributions involved in financing digital infrastructure. This approach is crucial for ensuring the sustainability and predictability of investments, which are vital for long-term success.

The Roundtable, which congregated the financing community, telecommunications operators, policy makers and regulators, underscored the necessity of expanding financial contributions beyond the traditional telecom sector to include technology firms, content providers, financial institutions, development banks, and governments. Participants at the Roundtable advocated for a Universal Broadband Financing Framework, currently piloted in Rwanda and Nigeria, which embraces and aligns with insights from the 21st Century Financing Models for Bridging the Connectivity Gap Broadband Commission Working Report, the outcomes of the Commission’s Annual Fall Meeting 2023 and the follow-up 21st Century Advocacy Group London Meeting in November 2023. This framework is built on the principle that diverse contributions can secure the capital needed to drive forward universal access initiatives, ensuring that digital networks reach the most remote and underserved areas.

In conclusion, the SAMENA Leaders’ Summit 2024 demonstrated the power of collaborative efforts in advancing digital inclusion. By embracing innovative financing strategies and fostering diverse stakeholder contributions, the summit highlighted a sustainable pathway to achieving universal digital connectivity. This comprehensive approach promises to transform the global digital landscape, promoting continuous growth and inclusivity.

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