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David Dion writes:
 
> From my perch over here in Rome, these meetings do appear a bit
> high-handed and non-inclusive.  Have any Africans been invited to
> discuss the wiring of their continent?
 
That's an important question.  Thanks for posing it.  USAID should do
whatever it can to encourage African participation in its
decision-making process.  I think it's already doing quite a bit.
 
The workshop held yesterday was, and the Leland Initiative meeting to
be held on April 3 will be, a public meeting.  All were invited.
There were Africans on some of the panels at the workshop, mostly as
reps of multilateral organizations (e.g. the UNDP), and there were a
few other Africans in the room.
 
The meeting yesterday was not just about Africa, however.  The focus
was worldwide.  There were quite a few South Americans in the room
and on the panels.  The Leland meeting next week will be focused on
Africa.  Someone told me that more than 1000 people have said they
will attend, but I have not confirmed that number with the conference
organizers and am not sure if it is true.
 
Of course I'm inviting Africans to discuss the wiring of their
continent right now, since I recognize few on the continent can
afford to fly over for these meetings.  I'm writing up my notes of
the meeting yesterday so that those who could not be there can at
least hear a bit of what was discussed.  (I'll write up a bit more
tonight.)
 
Following the Leland meeting, teams are scheduled to be sent to a
number of target countries to discuss issues with local service
providers, leaders of PTTs, ministers of communications,
representatives of various user communities, etc.
 
Local USAID missions in Africa are involving their hosts in
discussions.  For example, the Regional Mission in Gaborone is
involving SACCAR, an institution of SADC.  I know because I flew to
Gaborone and held extensive discussions with Chris Lungu, the
information manager there, and with Bruno Ndunguru, the Director.
The USAID mission in Gaborone hopes to assist with numerous
installations for email connectivity throughout the region, working
through local service providers in each country, in an activity
coordinated by SACCAR.
 
Africans are involved in many ways and at many levels in discussions
with USAID.  The meeting in Washington yesterday was obviously
intended primarily for people in the Washington area, who are
primarily donors and contractors and NGOs.  Meetings to be held
elsewhere will facilitate the participation of others.
 
I personally would like to encourage still greater participation by
Africans.  How can USAID do that?  I'm listening, as are others.
 
Cheers!
Jeff
 
AfricaLink -- http://www.info.usaid.gov/alnk
Tel 1-703-235-5415
Fax 1-703-235-3805