By Isabella Wang
Rabat – ATU has reinstated Morocco as a member at a preparatory meeting in Nairobi. Morocco’s membership will enable Morocco and other African nations to develop their telecommunications systems.
The African Telecommunications Union (ATU), also known by its French acronym UAT, announced the move on Tuesday, August 14, in Nairobi. The ATU is a specialized agency of the African Union which combines the telecommunications providers of its member countries to increase the development of Africa’s information and communication technology (ICT) infrastructure.
The ATU stated in a note, “The Secretary General of the UAT confirms that the request for return of the kingdom has been accepted and that the member countries have been notified of the return of the Kingdom of Morocco.”
Only last year in 2017 was Morocco readmitted to the African Union. It had been more than 3 decades since Morocco had left the continental body in 1984 after a majority of the member states recognized the self-proclaimed Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic in the disputed territory of Western Sahara.
Since the ATU was at the time a specialized agency under the African Union, Morocco became separated from what was at the time the ATU. Only after Morocco’s separation from the African Union in 1999 did the ATU become a fully-fledged Union and gain its current name.
The announcement occurred during the 4th Regional Preparatory Meeting of the Africa Group of the Plenipotentiary Conference of the International Communication Union (ITU). The meeting was held for two days, August 13-14.
The Moroccan delegation was led by Sidi Mohammed Drissi Melyani, the technical director of the National Telecommunications Regulatory Agency (ANRT). Also in the delegation were representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation; the Ministry of Industry, Investment, Trade, and Digital; the Ministry of Economy and Finance; as well as the National Agency for the Regulation of Telecommunications and the Moroccan embassy in Nairobi.
The regional meeting aimed to finalize African joint contributions before their adoption at the Plenipotentiary Conference of the ITU, to be held from October 29 to November 16, 2018, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Possible benefits of Morocco’s re-entry
According to analysis by the US Department of Commerce,Morocco’s telecommunications market is one of the most mature in Africa due to its numerous international and local providers. Morocco’s goals to invest in hardware and networking infrastructure aligns with the goals of the ATU.
The mission of the ATU “to promote the rapid development of the ICTs in Africa in order to achieve universal service and access to broadband” will greatly benefit from Morocco’s membership. Morocco’s membership will bring expertise for the ATU while also helping Morocco’s goals to foster ICT development.
In October 2017, members expressed great interest in Morocco’s strategies in telecommunications and digital technology at the 3rd annual Digital Africa Conference.
When discussing the possibility of an integrated digital ecosystem within Africa, the Moroccan ambassador to France, Chakib Benmoussa, underlined Morocco’s efforts to develop the sector and how this would enable greater cooperation policies between Morocco and other African countries.
As a further testament to cooperation in telecommunications, the 2020 Digital Morocco Plan, launched in 2016 seeks to accelerate the digital transformation of Morocco and make Morocco a regional hub. It entailed stimulating digital activities in telecommunications throughout francophone Africa and strengthening Morocco’s digital exports to other nations in Africa.