When Ethiopia was first selected as the first country to benefit from the pilot phase of the Pan-African e-network project, a joint initiative between the Indian government and the African Union (AU) to develop the ICT infrastructure across the continent, we felt the need that coordinating efforts and resources could enable to lay the foundation for our future mega national initiatives.
The Ethiopian federal government well aware of the importance of the information and communication technology in the development initiatives of the country, utmost efforts have been exerted to put in place policies and regulations to give a head way to the sector.
Here in Ethiopia we have fully realized the importance of the ICT sector in bringing about rapid economic development and social transformation. For this to bear fruition, the government has allocated a huge amount of resource and put emphasis on the development of human resources that could be instrumental in filling the lost opportunities.
Ladies and Gentlemen
Ethiopia is one of a few African countries that have been hoped to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). With this respect we have registered significant results in the education coverage, health care, provision of safe drinking water, among others to the rural people.
Rural electrification and connectivity are also the other areas where we feel that major challenges in the development of the information and communication technology have been addressed. With the preset pace of development no doubt that in less than two decades Ethiopia would join the group of middle income earning countries.
My government regards ICT as an irreplaceable tool to alleviate and eventually eradicate poverty that has been synonymous to the name of our country.
It is also the desire of the government to make Ethiopia an ICT-driven country able to function effectively and emerge competitive in the global economy of this information age of which the country cannot function in isolation of the rest of the world.
The government considers ICT as a weapon not only in combating the ill effects of poverty such as unemployment, gender inequality and ignorance, but also as an instrument in consolidating the gains of the on-going state transformation with especial emphasis on improving service delivery and creating a sense of accountability and transparency, which are the bedrocks for the flourishing of democratic institutions and the establishment of good governance.
Ladies and Gentlemen
The experiences gained as a result of implementing the e-education pilot project from Indian experts and technology could be used as a stepping stone in our efforts to expand the networking to the over 21 universities institutions established in various parts of the country.
The Govenet, which has been launched technically to connect the over 600 local governments to the various federal and regional government structures, has been already partly operational in the provision of distance learning to civil servants in the Amhara regional state through the Bahardar University.
It is also our firm believe that other universities could follow suit and exploit the infrastructure which is already on the ground for the good of the society. Here after our students won`t travel abroad for some special training as the ground work has been laid thanks to the generous support of the Indian government.
Ladies and Gentlemen
Over the past few years, India has increasingly encouraged Indian companies and tertiary education institutions to penetrate emerging markets in Africa. The ÷Focus Africa÷ programme - launched in 2002 under the five-year export and import policy - initially focused on seven major trading partners in the region that included Ethiopia has subsequently been extended to cover over 17 African countries.
Overall, India-Africa bilateral trade has grown from $967m in 1990-91 to $9.1bn in ÷04-05, with Africa accounting for nearly 7% of India÷s total exports, according to available data. Although these figures encompass all sectors, agriculture, education and ICT have been identified as the main growth areas in India-Africa trade relations.
This clearly explains the need for growing cooperation between India and Africa based on mutual trust and respect. Here in Ethiopian the Indian companies have been actively engaged in the various sectors in support of the development initiatives in the country. We need more Indian investors to come to Ethiopia and invest in the country.
It is worth mentioning the contribution of Indian scholars in producing skilled and qualified professionals in Ethiopia for many years. It is not unusual to find Indian scholars from secondary to tertiary level in the country even today. We are grateful for that as well.
It is also befitting at this juncture to thank the government of India for selecting Ethiopia as the first country to launch the tele - education pilot project, which is part of the pan- African e- network project intended to connect all 53 member states of the African Union (AU) to India.
I thank you!