ITU World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC-21) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

by Yayeh KITAW (Kitaw Yayehyirad KITAW)
Photos from publicly shared sources on Twitter and LinkedIn

Last year, in February 2019, ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao and ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau Director Doreen Bogdan-Martin met in Addis Abeba with H.E. Sahle-Work Zewde, President of Ethiopia to discuss Ethiopia’s expression of interest in hosting the World Telecommunication Development Forum (WTDC-21) in Addis Ababa for the first time on African soil.

Last year, in June 2019, Ethiopia’s invitation to host the 2021 World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC-21), presented by H.E Getahun Mekuria, the then Minister of Innovation and Technology of Ethiopia, was received with thankful messages and unanimous support by ITU Council Member States in the presence of Ambassador Zenebe Kebede. The newly appointed Minister H.E Abrham Belay followed up on Ethiopia’s commitment making the opening remarks of Telecommunication Development Advisory Group (TDAG) in June 2020.

Last week, in October 2020, the organizing team of ITU and the Government of Ethiopia conducted a fruitful meeting in the presence of State Minister H.E. Ahmedhin Mohammed, to make the World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC-21) a truly African and development focused one.

As Addis Ababa (New Flower in Amharic), capital city of Ethiopia, African “hub” of opportunities, is preparing to host this important conference from 8th to 19th November 2021, ITU member states and all stakeholders are organizing Regional Preparatory Meetings for WTDC-21 to effectively and efficiently provide future direction and guidance to the ITU Telecommunication Development Sector (ITU-D).

This important conference comes

as Ethiopia,

  • member of the League of Nations in 1923
  • founding member of the United Nations in 1945;
  • first sub-Saharan country to join the International Telecommunication Union in 1932;
  • home to the Economic Commission for Africa since 1958 and the African Union since 1963 and to ITU’s Africa Regional Office since 1992;

is undergoing a profound transformation, placing Digital Connectivity through its strategy at in a wider framework of socio economic objectives of its homegrown economic reform agenda under the government led by H.E. Prime Minister Abiy, whose efforts were recognized through the award of the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize.

has promisingly started to liberalize the telecommunications sector, creating a new regulator and continuing plans to partially privatize Ethio Telecom, one of the world’s largest state-owned monopoly in the second most populous African Country.

as Africa, is striving to implement the African Union Commission’s comprehensive Digital Transformation Strategy for Africa, which was developed in collaboration with the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), Smart Africa, AUDA-NEPAD, Regional Economic Communities, the African Development Bank, Africa Telecommunications Union, Africa Capacity Building Foundation, International Telecommunication Union and the World Bank.

as the World, has all eyes rived on the Covid-19 pandemic’s second wave and exploring how Connectivity can help in recovering and building back better,

as the World marks the start of the Decade of Action to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030, endeavouring to use digital technologies and Internet connectivity to accelerate efforts to achieve each of the 17 SDGs.

as the World with 46% of its unconnected inhabitants, needs US$ 428 billion to connect the remaining 3 billion (nearly half of the global population) by 2030 as estimated by ITU’s ‘Connecting Humanity’,

as the World is shifting from analog to digital faster than ever before, further exposing us to the vast promise and peril of new technologies as outlined in the United Nations Secretary-General’s Roadmap for Digital Cooperation.

as ITU, its Telecommunication Development Sector and Advisory Body, the Telecommunication Development Advisory Group (TDAG) are discussing reforms of the World Telecommunication Development Conference in 2021 to be a solutions-based conference that addresses the real challenges in the development of telecommunications/ICTs and make it a landmark conference.

WTDC-21 offers an invaluable opportunity for all stakeholders including ITU member states, private sector members of ITU-D, regional development banks and telecom organizations to work together in this unprecedented era and provide direction to the ITU Telecommunication Development Sector (ITU-D) through an Addis Action plan 2022-2025.

As we prepare to conduct a virtual signing ceremony of host country agreement with Ethiopia on the 9th of November 2020, we remain hopeful that the pandemic situation will allow a physical WTDC-21, on the land of 13th Months of Sunshine (Ethiopia) , from 8th to 19th November 2021 as planned!