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Economy - Development | Technology

Botswana's "telecom revolution" lauded

afrol News, 7 October - The Economic Commission of Africa (ECA) has in its Economic Report on Africa 2004, entitled 'Unlocking Africa's Trade Potential', has singled out Botswana's "remarkable expansion in infrastructure" over the last two decades as an example of excellence. Botswana ranks at the top in most of the report's indexes but comes only eighth when competitiveness is measured.

Botswana was mentioned in the ECA report as an example of "what can be achieved through enlightened policies and an ongoing commitment to reform," according to the Batswana presidency. Under the heading "Countries leading the way in infrastructure" the ECA report notes that: "Botswana has dramatically improved its ranking from 20th to fourth place with its developed telecommunications and transport networks."

According to the report, the other top five African countries in terms of infrastructure development are Mauritius, South Africa, Namibia and Egypt. According to Jeff Ramsay, Press Secretary to Botswana's President, ECA's report however in particular "lauds Botswana's telecommunications revolution."

A case study of reform, the ECA report further praises the transformation of Botswana's local telecom sector: "With the Telecommunications Act of 1996, Botswana became the first country in Africa to establish an independent regulatory body, the Botswana Telecommunications Authority (BTA), and it adopted a new telecommunications policy based on gradual liberalisation."

Since the introduction of mobile phone services in 1998 - with two private operators - Botswana's mobile phone market had experienced "exponential growth," the ECA report noted.

Also Botswana's "commitment to improving the level and quality of basic telecommunications services, backed by strong policy strategies," had brought "increased competition, diversification, and efficiency to the sector," the report said. Botswana uses digital microwave and fibre-optic systems with digital exchanges, providing high-quality services.

- Botswana's success is attributed to its commitment to ongoing reform and dynamic policies that are open to private ownership and competition, ECA finally pointed out. "There is a continuous search for quality service and reduced tariffs," the report added.

On ECA's 'Trade Competitiveness Index', however, Botswana continues to only be ranked Africa's number eight. Another recent report by the World Bank, covering the past six months, had reaffirmed Botswana's number one position in the competitiveness category on the African continent, Mr Ramsay recalls.

- The answer to the above seeming contradiction lies in the fact that various indices measure different things using various criteria, explains the Batswana presidential spokesman. It was "important to note" that ECA's index on competitiveness "controversially excludes the entire mineral sector of the economy," according to Mr Ramsay.

The annual ECA report also contains of number of other indices and sub-indices. Botswana ranks at the top in most, but also inevitably ranks low in the report's 'Geography Index', "which automatically penalises landlocked countries," according to the presidential spokesman.

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