INTERNATIONAL TELECOMMUNICATIONS



Broadcasting/South Africa

In light of the Black Management Forum's blueprint for affirmative action which is expected to be the basis of new legislation next year, Wynand Harmse, head of the state-owned South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) was moved to comment on the absence of Black representation in the country's largest and most powerful media group. Twenty-two radio channels and 3 TV channels reached more than 20 million people daily in South Africa. The whole issue of Black control of broadcast media is being examined by an internal task group at SABC and it is expected to recommend a vigorous affirmative action program. The recent promulgation of the Independent Broadcasting Authority Act removes the license issuing authority of the Department of Home Affairs, which in the past deferred to SABC objections to new licenses.

One of the key components of the new Act is the promotion of community radio and TV services, an area which opens up vast opportunities for Blacks. The Authority, which will be appointed next year, is charged with ensuring minimum local content requirements for TV and radio, ownership and cross-ownership of the media (placing limits on foreign ownership and assisting previously disadvantaged groups from acquiring a stake in the media) and management of the spectrum. In its allocation of the frequency spectrum, the new IBA will lean towards Black empowerment, although station managers must prove that they have the necessary competence and finance for the job. There are few Black entrepreneurs in the country who satisfy these criteria, so some form of training and perhaps state assistance will have to accompany the allocation of the frequency spectrum.

Consulting

There is a market for consulting and engineering services in Africa. Funding By the African Development Bank (AFDB) has committed $1 Billion USD to telecommunications.

Botswana (Telecommunications is controlled by the BTC - sole provider).

The Botswana Telecommunications Commission (BTC) has achieved significant growth over the last 5 years and is in the process of developing one of the premier Networks in Africa. The BTC has successful completed the installation of a digital microwave ring around the country covering a distance of 3,550 kilometers. Reports designed to assess the telecommunications industry in Botswana to highlight business prospects for which US forums could successfully compete.

Growth in telecommunications industry has been phenomenal since the inception of the BTC from only 6,500 telephone subscribers in 1980 to almost 50,000 in 1994. (12,000 subscribers are on waiting lists because of lack of equipment).

There are attractive and sizeable markets for U.S. firms for 2 reasons; (1) many new opportunities will arise from South Africa's proposed membership in the AFDB and, (2) as lending programs decline, the need for competent consultants and engineers will become even more critical to improving project quality.

The number of firms procuring projects financed by the AFDB and the World Bank is increasing steadily. Those companies competing in Africa find decision makers receptive to American technology expertise.