I called you this morning to appraise you, your various audiences and the country at large on the participation and performance of our country at the various international events in the ICT arena; that is the recently concluded 26th International Congress of the Universal Postal Union (UPU) and the 37th Assembly of Parties of the International Satellite Organization (ITSO) in Istanbul and Washington DC respectively. I led Uganda’s delegations that represented Uganda at both of these high level meetings.
Uganda is a member to a several of international organizations namely; the Universal Postal Union (UPU), International Telecommunications Satellite Organization (ITSO), Commonwealth Telecommunications Organization (CTO), International Telecommunications Union (ITU),Pan Africa Postal Union (PAPU), Africa Telecommunicati ons Union (ATU) and East Africa Communications Organization (EACO), Africa Advanced level Telecommunications Institute (AFRALTI) among others.
International Telecommunications Satellite Organization (ITSO)
The Government of Uganda is a signatory to the ITSO Agreement that was initially opened for signature by governments at Washington, D.C. on August 20, 1971 and entered into force on February 12, 1973. The signing of this agreement resulted from consideration by the State Parties of the principles set forth in Resolution 1721 (XVI) of the General Assembly of the United Nations that communication by means of satellite should be available to the nations of the world as soon as practicable on a global and non-discriminatory basis.
Leadership of ITSO
The Assembly of Parties of ITSO, is composed of 149 member countries. It is the highest decision making organ of the organization. The executive organ, is headed by the Director General, who is directly responsible to the Assembly of Parties. The Director General is elected and appointed by the Assembly of Parties for a term of four years and is eligible for reelection for another four year period. In Pursuit of the above, this year’s 37th Assembly of Parties was held in Washington USA and was to conduct elections for the Director General among other items on the agenda.
In May 2016, Uganda government duly nominated Mr. Patrick Masambu, a qualified telecommunications professional with immense expertise in regulatory frameworks as Uganda’s candidate for the position of Director General.
Firstly, Russia was elected by acclamation/unopposed as the chair of the Assembly of Parties and the other only electable position was of Director General.
As such Mr. Patrick Masambu vied for the position of Director General, of International Telecommunicati ons Satellite Organization (ITSO) and competed against two other equally competent professionals from France and Spain. The electoral rules of the ITSO assembly require that for any candidate to be duly elected he/she Must get 2/3rds of the total votes cast in the first round of voting. This is always difficult and makes the second round of voting inevitable. At the second round, only the first and second candidate are allowed to be voted on. The rest get eliminated. For this particular election of ITSO that took place on 13th October 2016 at the American University, College of law in Washington DC, Uganda’s candidate(Masambu) scored 59 votes, France’s scored 33 and Spain’s candidate scored 23 at the first round of voting. Despite this clear lead by our candidate, a re-run became inevitable because of the 2/3rds requirement. Mr. Masambu now faced the French candidate as per the assembly electoral rules. Finally on tallying, our candidate won with a landslide victory. Masambu polled 72 votes against 43 votes of Mr. Yvon Henri of France and was thus declared the next Director General of ITSO effective July 2017 when the term of the current leadership expires.
Universal Postal Union (UPU)
In the same vein, Uganda won elections to retain her seat on the 40 Member Council of Administration of the Universal Postal Union (UPU). The voting took place on Wednesday 5th October 2016 at the 26th sitting of the UPU Congress in Istanbul, Turkey. Out of 192member countries, only 151 countries had voting rights at the Congress and Uganda was voted 5th from the African region that had 16 contenders. Only eleven had to be picked. The 26th UPU congress also discussed the role of the Post in the changing global digital environment. It was agreed that Post operators allover enjoy huge networks of physical infrastructure and if integrated with e-commerce, Posts can become a far much better, efficient and cheaper actor in the provision of e-commerce services compared to banks and telecoms. Member Countries therefore were tasked to review their domestic policies to make sure the work of Posta copes up with the digitally changing environment and position it to respond ably to the needs of its clients majority of which are the rural under-served.
What do these election victories mean for Uganda? And what are the benefits of being on and leading these bodies?
- Political leadership: Elections to these international bodies take into consideration a number of factors such as diplomatic ties, a country’s foreign policy, its leadership and how strategically important it is in the region, continental and international system among others. These elections also are by and large a measure of how the international system perceives a country. Normally, the lobbying is intense and involving. I however had at these meetings competent teams of campaigners that smartly helped me to execute a subtle and well-conceived campaign strategy. One major factor that helped our campaign both in Istanbul and Washington was first and foremost, the influence of our President on the continent which helped to unite Africa and also on the international scene. It gave us enormous good will. While the proverbial African saying of a prophet has no respect at home; meaning that quite often people don’t appreciate as much as it would be the golden value of their own and take it as ordinary, may be true even here in Uganda, those outside see it and appreciate it most. The influence of our President was the most enabling good will to ride on among other factors. Our President’s correct foreign policy of the Pan Africanist formation, his clarity and articulation of Africa’s bottlenecks, his consistent advocacy for trade not aid as well his role in stabilizing troubled Somalia that many saw as a failed State and had surrendered in the hands of terror networks, all continue to stand out prominently at the international scene and thus helped a great deal to brand Uganda correctly, the works and efforts of spoilers from within and without Uganda notwithstanding. Every minister or Head of delegation we spoke to while soliciting support for our country and candidate pledged support for Uganda. Each of those that pledged support had a thing or two to speak about in praise of the leadership of our President. By and large, Uganda enjoys good relations with most counties of the world and hence some were giving reciprocal support.
Of particular importance also was the technical competence of our Candidate Mr. Masambu Patrick. A telecommunications engineer, by profession, Masambu has more than 30 years of experience at senior and international levels that have included positions in both the public and private sector. He has actively led and participated in the design, development and implementation of various works and initiatives at regional and international level in institutions such as ITU, ATU, World Bank and other institutions.
- Proof of Correct ICT Policy frameworks: These international bodies were formed majorly as global sector specific professional institutions for setting standards of the various actors to follow and thus fit in the international system. It is usually countries that have demonstrable good track record of ICT Policy frame work at home that get elected to the high organs of such bodies. Uganda being elected therefore, is validation of our success story in the ICT sector built on a sound Policy, legal, regulatory and framework. It means our policies are correct.
- The benefits for Uganda’s active participation at these bodies are enormous:
- a) First, they Provide us an opportunity to bench mark and quality assure our ICT policy instruments and be able to review them periodically to match the changing demands of Technological advancements. When our own individual and/or our country as an entity gets elected to positions of leadership of these international bodies to be able to participate at the highest decision making level of these organization, the advantages of knowledge transfer, resource mobilization etc. become more evident.
- b) We also get the opportunity to share our experience and also learn from the others. One of the big policy agenda for example Uganda left at the table of ITSO which Mr.Masambu will champion was the question of making satellite universal and affordable especially by the geographically least empowered regions like Africa and Small Island States. Satellite communication is the future and master of all communications. Yes alternatives like optic fiber cables are there and indeed offer cheaper solutions compared to satellite but they are limited in many respects. They are not disaster proof just as satellite is.
- c) The other benefit derived from our country’s participation in these international bodies is visibility and its associated advantages. Participation at global level creates visibility for the country. As “The Pearl of Africa”, Uganda has a high profile as a stable and investment-worth destination. Over the years, especially since the hosting of CHOGM in 2007, Uganda has hosted a number of high profile events, including ICT-related ones. For example, the other factor that enabled our #VoteMasambuLobby was the fact that Uganda in 2012 hosted the 35th Assembly of Parties here in Kampala. This made Uganda not just an active member. The more we are visible as a country, the more we sell our country with its natural heritage as a suitable tourist destination. In fact, one of the quick take aways/lessons learnt from these international meetings is the need to always equip our different delegations of officers and leaders that go to different sectorial meetings and events to represent Uganda with a minimum package of information about Uganda and how it should be presented. Correct messaging and branding are key for any countries’ drive to promote tourism and investment. My ministry will soon issue guidelines to all embassies and desk officers in charge of these international partnerships for every sector/ministry, with key descriptive facts about Uganda’s stability, its unique geography, people, places and delicacies. It’s important that every Ugandan official that moves out in an official representative capacity ably presents a good image of our country. It has always to be the best.
I would like to acknowledge with gratitude the immense contribution of the following personalities that made it possible for Uganda to attain these victories;
- a) My predecessors in the Ministry of ICT; Rt.Hon. Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda, Hon. John Nasasira, Hon. Aggrey Awori and Hon. Ham Mukasa- Mulira for having laid a solid foundation and built the good relations among nations in the ICT fraternity.
- b) Hon. Sam Kuteesa for providing the enormous diplomatic network that our campaign was able to leverage on in garnering the required support.
- c) The Executive Director, UCC for the support and active participation at all these meetings that enabled us gain good reputation.
In addition, I am particularly grateful to our staff and government officers from Uganda Commissions Commission, Uganda Posts, Ministry of ICT and Foreign Affairs that ably backed me to execute the campaign.
I also thank in a special way, our Ambassadors Johnson Agara Olwa of Turkey, Hon Oliver Wonekha of Washington DC. Hon Richard Nduhura and Ambassador Duncan Muhumuza from our Permanent Mission in New York and Ambassador Rosette Nyirikindi from Ministry of foreign affairs for diplomatic frantic efforts in promoting these campaigns. I also thank our other Ambassadors generally in other countries for having responded positively to the tasks we gave them in dealing with the delegations of their respective receiving countries.
Finally, I congratulate all Ugandans for these important victories. Beyond the individual candidates like Masambu that get direct benefits coming with their jobs, the broader benefits to our country are bigger. Let us always celebrate our own identity as Ugandans and be disciplined enough to know that every country or society has got its own internal social and political contradictions. These, however should always remain within us and should never go out to define us. When we all become spin doctors for Uganda we all become winners irrespective of our background.
Frank K Tumwebaze, MP Minister for ICT & National Guidance, Government of the Republic of Uganda