The Second SADC Prepatory Meeting for the World Radio Conference (WRC-23) was convened from 23rd to 26thMarch 2021. The virtual event was well attended by 198 delegates from all SADC Member States, except Madagascar and Seychelles. It was also attended by SADC ICT Implementating Agencies, Communication Regulators’ Association of Southern Africa (CRASA) and Southern Africa Telecommunications Association (SATA), as well as over 20 industry representatives from the Region and beyond.
The WRC is organised by the Internatinoal Telecommunication Union (ITU) and is convened every four years to review the Radio Regulations (RR) which are the international treaty governing the sharing and reuse of Radio Frequency (RF) spectrum and satellite orbital resources. These are finite and scarce natural resources that are vital for the provision of communications services, especailly in the SADC Region where wireless mobile is predominant.
The First SADC Preparatory Meeting in July 2020 triggered the Region’s preparations for the WRC-23. This is when the SADC institutional structure for WRC-23 was established, namely the appointment of the United Republic of Tanzania as the SADC Chair for the WRC-23 process and Chapter Coordinators and Rapporteurs for each WRC-23 Agenda Items. The SADC Roadmap for RA-23/WRC-23 that guides the SADC preparatory process was also developed. The meeting also prepared the Region’s nominations for leadership positions to the African Telecommunications Union (ATU) WRC-23 Working Groups and the First Africa Preparatory Meeting for WRC-23 (APM23-1).
The keynote address at WRC-23 was delivered by Mr. Horácio Clemente Parquinio, the Director of Communications at the Ministry of Transport and Communications of the Republic of Mozambique, Chair of SADC. The Director stated that the meeting was an incubator that provides an opportunity to lay the foundation to support a variety of emerging technologies that will revolutionise the digital economy, including the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI), big data, Internet of Things (IoT) and cloud services. He reminded participants that the success of the work for the SADC Region depends on regional unity and cohesion in defending the regional interests on RF spectrum required for radiocommunication services that are profoundly transforming the health, education and transportation sectors.
Dr. George Ah-Thew, the SADC Senior Programme Officer (SPO) ICT, acknowledged the high level of women participation in the delegation which clearly indicates that Member States are implementing recommendations of the previous meeting which emanated from the Kasane Action Plan and WRC-19 Declaration on Promoting Gender Equality, Equity and Parity in Radiocommunications. The SPO ICT reminded participants that the SADC RFSAP 2020 is one of the main instruments and the most useful tool to enable SADC to have a coordinated implementation of the WRC-19 decisions and accelerate the Region’s digital transformation. Its domestication should be accelerated. Dr. Ah-Thew proposed that some time be set aside in future preparatory meetings to appreciate the deployment or pilot of various systems in the Region that have become a reality due to the RF spectrum secured through the SADC process for WRC.
The preparatory meeting was jointly chaired by Mr. Martins Langa from Mozambique and Mr. Victor Kweka from the United Republic of Tanzania. The co-chairs were supported by the SADC Secretariat. The meeting received presentations from the industry players providing details and RF spectrum requirement of their systems on various agenda Items. SADC Rapporteurs of WRC-23 Agenda Items presented their summaries of the preliminary results of ongoing studies of the ITU Study Groups and Working Parties. All the contributions discussed were collated by the five Chapter Coordinators as the SADC preliminary positions. The meeting included a half-day seminar to strengthen capacity of Member States on Electromagnetic Frequency (EMF) Guidelines, the SADC 5G Roadmap, Deployment, Exposure and 5G Misinformation/ Conspiracy. The African Union Youth Club (AUYC) was invited to benefit from this awareness initiative. The International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) Guideline (2020) was shared with Member States.
The Second SADC Preparatory Meeting for WRC-23 made the following recommendations: