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"Geographical aspect of the African integration in the global information network - Senegal and Mali comparative research", UCL, UTM2, 03.2006


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Travail universitaire à UCL (Londres), 2006.

Travail universitaire à UCL (Londres), 2006.

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  • 1. GEOGRAPHICAL ASPECT OF THE AFRICANINTEGRATION IN THE GLOBAL INFORMATION NETWORK Senegal and Mali comparative research Jonathan STEBIG, Globalization Essay, UCL - March 2006 - 1
  • 2. Nowadays, Africa is still relatively poorly equipped in the field of New Informationand Communication Technology (N.I.C.T). Nevertheless, this sector is developing rapidly.Indeed, connectivity is increasing at a rate never before seen on this continent for any othereconomic activity. In order to broadly understand the place of Africa in the communicationnetwork, I will introduce my essay with some data. This continent gathers twelve percent ofpopulation for only two percent of the global telecommunication network (InternationalTelecommunication Union), which represent two main lines for one thousand inhabitants onaverage compare to Europe, where the ratio is 314 for one thousand. However, to give onlyone example, the number of fixed telephone line has doubled between 1996 and 2002(Chéneau-Loquay, 1999 [b]). Thus, the situation is paradoxical; despite a very low integrationto the information society, the establishment of NICT is increasing quickly.Furthermore, this technology is even presented by the G7 as the new universal key todevelopment, and the WB emphasizes somewhat dramatically if African countries do notsucceed in taking advantage of the information revolution and in surfing the mighty wave oftechnological change, they will sink below (Chéneau-Loquay, 2003).We are faced with a situation of domination of the international organisation (World Bank,International Monetary Fund) and multinational firms on the infrastructure and the services,which limit the room for manoeuvre of States in Africa.What I would like to show in this essay is the geographical aspect of the African integration inthe global information networks through the comparison of two countries in Africa: Senegal,and Mali. In the first part, I will essentially focus on the establishment, use, and developmentof the NICT in these two countries. Successively, I will territorial imbalance within eachcountry, where there is a common inequality between the ICT network in cities and majortown compare to the rural areas. Next, it seems to me important to analyse the collective useof the NICT in the “telecenter”, which risk to upset the traditional hierarchies in each country.Next, in the second part, I would like to deal with the question in explaining the geographicalreasons of the different involvement of both, Mali and Senegal in the information society.Four elements might be noticed: first, the localisation of the country within the continent;second, the size of the territory which is important in relation to the ICT networking; third, thehigh correlation between the health a country produces and the basic telecommunicationservices in the country; and fourth, the tremendous role of the Diaspora and internationalmigration in the ICT integration. 2
  • 3. The territorial disparity is a phenomenon present in the whole Africa. Broadlyspeaking, there is a general imbalance between the capitals, which gather the quasi totality oftelecenter, main lines and connection and the rural areas, which are generally bad served.Furthermore, this continent is still represented by a rural society, with seventy to eightypercent of people who reside in rural places (Cheneau-Loquay, 2004 [a]). However, thisproblem is more complex, and the situation is sensibly different between Senegal and Mali.In Senegal, there is Sixty percent of the telecenter for only one quarter of the population.Moreover, the costs are two to three times higher in Tombacounda (a rural town), than inDakar. However, this situation is improving: the "autonomization" of territories giving powerto the rural communities through the decentralization program launched in 2001 by thegovernment. In the continuity of this program, concessions have been granted to privateindividuals; thus, there is a proliferation of telecentre, and forty percent are outside Dakar.The aim of the communication ministry is to ensure that no citizen is more than fivekilometres away from a communication tool (Guignard, 2003).The situation in Mali is much more contrasted, with an obsolete communication network, afrequency of breakdown high. For instance, the capital, Bamako, gathers seventy five percentsof the ICT network for only ten percent of the whole population. Despite the desire of thepresident Konaré to link up the 701 communes through an Internet network (“thetechnological jump”) in order to avoid the construction of classical infrastructures, the dualitybetween the capital and the background is still representative in Mali (Dulau C, 2000).This geographical disparity represents a considerable limit to the integration of these countriesin the information society, especially in Mali, where the rural areas are still isolated. Whilethe capital is well linked to the communication network, the major part of the population isstill marginalized from this communication tool. I would like now to place an emphasis on the role of telecentre, which could beresponsible for many traditional customs disruption within these countries. Before to analysethese shifts, I would like to notice the collective use of the ICT, which is a generalcharacteristic in Africa. This tendency results from the high cost of material andcommunications. This could be a solution faced with the elitist private use of these tools. Toillustrate that point, only one datum: there is one user for three computers on average in thetelecenter in Africa (Lancry C, 2002).The traditional hierarchy risk to be disrupted. While the desire to move abroad had occurredbefore the establishment of TIC in Africa, the extraversion of the countries is increasing. The 3
  • 4. proliferation of telecentre represents one larger window toward the “West”, a way of evasionfor people who are still living within the homeland.The fieldworks in the telecenter of Dakar have shown that the destination of the emails is for41.5 percent France. Moreover, the most part of the website consulted are about theinternational news (84.5 percent). The Internet access in telecentre accentuates the“Westernisation” of young people, which are looking for jobs, school or both overseas. Theexample of the town Touba is even more illustrative, this background rural area is betterconnected to a global level than to the local network (Gueye C, 2003). Therefore, there is astrenghen of international traffic in Senegal, whereas it is weaker within Africa (only onequarter of the total international communications are within Africa).The situation in Mali is relatively different. While the average consumption of each mailboxis constantly increasing (in 1996, the ratio of 3%: 600 electronic mail accounts for 20000main lines, was double the present ratio in France), this land-locked country is lesscharacterized by an extraversion toward the western culture, the communications overseas arefor 50 percent within the continent (Lancry C, 2002).This disruption of traditional hierarchy seems to be a central issue for the future of Africa.The implementation of the ICT, still badly controlled an appropriated by these countries couldrepresent a further path for African population to identify themselves through the westernculture, and to escape this situation of marginalization. In this second part, I will try t elucidate the geographical reasons which explains thedifferent integration to the information and communication society between Mali andSenegal.First, there is an element that cannot be ignored: it is the localisation of the country within thecontinent, and these two states represent situations extremely different.The Senegal, located on the West coast of Africa is a great deal better linked to the TICnetworks than the Mali, located in the Sahel, and isolated from any communication networks.To illustrate the constraint for a country to be an enclave within a continent, I will emphasizeonly one element which is decisive in the case these two countries. The under sea fibre opticcable build by ALCATEL in February 2000 around the North West coast of Africa havepermitted to Senegal to be directly connected with countries in South America and Europe.Moreover, this fibre optic has allowed the country to get a high output internet connection,especially in the capital, which increases the reliability of the navigation on the web. Instead, 4
  • 5. Mali is not near enough to this cable to take advantage of this new technology, an alternativeto the satellite which is less reliable for Internet connection (Chéneau-Loquay, 2004 [b]).Through this instance, we can understand the crucial role of localisation in the newinformation network. Second, I would like to place an emphasis on the superficies of the territory, animportant factor in the development of communications technology. While this element isespecially representative for the extreme cases, it seems to play an important role in the twocase studies. Indeed, Mali, a 1 240 000 km² country, is far much larger than Senegal(196 000km²). This is decisive in the networking of different places within the country, in thesense that the maintenance of infrastructures of telecommunications, and the linkage betweenremote areas is extremely easier in a less extensive space. That is why the establishment oftelecommunication infrastructures is more problematical in Mali, where the network isdilapidated, and obsolete, which necessitate a number of maintenance faced with the highfrequency of breakdown. This country represents one of the less teledensity in the wholeworld, with only 2.5 lines for one thousand inhabitants (Lancry C, 2004). The third point I would like to deal with is about the economic situation of thecountry. The correlation between the GDP and the level of integration in thetelecommunication networks can also be an element of explanation for the comparisonbetween Mali and Senegal. I am going to illustrate that with some figures: In Mali, the GDP is246 $ compare to Senegal where it is more than double (520$); and if we correlate that to thenumber of cellular phones for one thousand inhabitant, we notice that it is twenty times less inMali (0.4), than in Senegal (8.0). The number of the Internet user is also representative. InMali there are three times less users than in Senegal: 9.12/1000 in Mali and 32.46/1000 inSenegal (table one in Cheneau-Loquay, 2000).While these differences are not exclusively related to the economic situation in both, Mali andSenegal, there is an indisputable relation between the GDP and the communication networkintegration. The last geographical element I would like to deal with is the phenomenon ofinternational migration. Despite the presence of Diasporas abroad is characteristic of thesetwo countries, the results are more efficient in Senegal.The role of these communities who have settled abroad is to involve in the economic situationin the homeland along with to build a network to keep the contact wit the homeland; the ICTseems to be the usual way to communicate. 5
  • 6. First, I would like here to speak about the international tax on traffic calls from abroad. Thistax is paid by the operator of origin towards the one of destination; due to the much higherincoming calls from the communities abroad toward the homeland, the Diaspora’s callsrepresent one third of the benefits of the SONATEL in Senegal; and, in a less extent, onequarter of the SOTELMA in Mali (Chéneau-Loquay, 2001). Unfortunately, the USA, awareabout this important loss of money, has decided to reform this tax in diminishing the rate ofthis one, which risk to be damageable for the developing countries in general. Through thisexample, we notice how far is important the networking with the communities abroad.Second, the ICT play a role sensibly paradoxical, in the sense that we witness thegeographical extraversion of one community along wit the cultural refocusing, thiscontradiction is well illustrated by the case of Touba, a secondary town in Senegal, located ina 90 % rural area, in which the community “Mouribe” use the ICT to spread its culture andreligion through the web, but also to organize trade from Touba to every community settled inoverseas countries and reversal. Thus we are faced with a network extraversion and areinforcement of social and economic cohesion (Guignard T, 2004). In conclusion, I would like to explore the other elements which are related to the ICTintegration in these two countries. Whereas the geographical analysis is appropriate to assessthe involvement of Senegal and Mali in the “information society”, there is also a sociologicalexplanation in this issue. Indeed, the relations of power, in different scales (family, village,state) are extremely important to evaluate the ICT integration in the two case studies. Thesentence of the past president of Mali, Alpha Omar Konaré is very significant of these stakesof power: “Nowadays, the one who can be present on the information auto route has aconsiderable manipulation power” (Misse M, 2003).To analyse these stake of actors, I will focus on three different scales:First, at the national scale, the governments are not very involved in the ITC development intheir countries. Indeed, the most part of investment in this sector come from the private sector.Thus, we may conclude that there is a fear from the states compared with the establishment ofICT, which represent the introduction of transparency, in contradiction with their powerwhich often rely on control of information and knowledge. Therefore, in Senegal as in Mali,the government tries to keep a hand over the ITC networks.Then, in the scale of urban and rural relation, there is a will from the urban elites and theruling class to limit the share of information. These actors establish their power over the ruralmarginalized classes through the “conservatism system” based on a general control of the 6
  • 7. information. The development of ICT, which introduce a conception of universalcommunication, will call into question this relation of domination.Finally, the public access to the Internet in telecentre represents an opportunity for youngpeople and women to free from the traditional hierarchy. Indeed, through the Internet, peoplecan get round the traditional way to access to knowledge and thus, limit the domination of theancestor and parents, in accessing the information through the web.These three different stakes of power illustrate to which extent the ICT allowed the weakestactors to free from the domination relationship, characteristic of these societies. Therefore, theintroduction of ICT in these countries is also disrupted by these traditional powerrelationships (Misse M, 2003).There is a last idea I would like to go thoroughly into, it is the loss of control by state. Indeed,this new digital technology (the Internet) can bypassed the notion of territory, and that putinto question the national regulatory structure on which every nation state was build. Thischallenge is especially important in developing countries, where the Structural AdjustmentProgram have already undermined the role of states. Hence, the state control over territory isoverwhelmed from both; above, the power of the satellite networks are controlled by thenorthern countries and their international institution (WB, WTO); but also from below, due tothe proliferation of bodies isolated in local territories linked up to the outside world (Cheneau-Loquay, 1999 [b]). As the ICTs ignore the geographical and political constraints ofnationhood, could we not do away with the state altogether in this globalization process wherecommunication techniques are the driving force? 7
  • 8. Internet references:éneau-Loquay A (2004) [a], “Communication technology, globalization anddevelopment”, in “Globalization and communication technology in Africa”, Paris, Karthala-MSH, *-Chéneau-Loquay A (2004) [b], “Shape and dynamic of public access in Africa: toward aparadoxical globalization?”, in “Globalization and communication technology in Africa”Paris, Karthala-MSH,*-Chéneau-Loquay A (2002) “Access and use of the Internet in Africa: the broad tendencies”,in “Africa e Mediterraneo”, n° 41,*-Chéneau-Loquay A (2001), “Between local an d global, which role for the African statesfaced with the telecommunication development: the example of Mali and Senegal”, in“Contemporain Africa: the State in Africa: between global and local”,*-Chéneau-Loquay A (2000), “North and South, which Africa in the worldwidecommunication networks“, in the seminar “World and centrality”, MSHA Bordeaux,*-Chéneau-Loquay (1999) [a], “The insertion challenge of communication and informationtechnologies in the African economies: The example of the Internet in Senegal“, UniversityLille,*-Chéneau-Loquay (1999) [b], “Africa in global communication networks: from networks toconcrete uses”, CNRS IRD-REGARDS,-Dulau C (2002), “The Internet in Senegal: different uses and communication networksdeveloped by NGOs in Dakar”, Thesis,*-Dulau C (2000), “Communication systems, actors and trade networks in Kayes in Mali”,thesis,*-Lancry C (2002), “Networks and communication systems in the region of Sikasso in Mali”,thesis,*-Zongo G (2000), “Telecentre in Senegal”, Chapter 11 in “Stakes of communicationtechnology in Africa” directed by Chéneau-Loquay A.* 8
  • 9. -N’Diaye Diouf (2000), “Availabilities and uses of communication technology in exchangesin Senegal”, Chapter 13 in “Stakes of communication technology in Africa” directed byChéneau-Loquay A.*-International seminar from the 23rd to the 28th of February 2003. “The numerical gapbetween North and South: Which stakes? Which partnership?”,* -Chéneau-Loquay A: “Geographical and Geopolitical aspects”, * -Misse M: “Social representation, actors and power in the social appropriation of the communication networks: research on the Internet in Cameroon” ,* -Guignard Thomas: “The public access to the Internet in Senegal: a paradoxical emergence”* -Blin O: “The growth of new technologies in the areas of culture and art in Dakar”* -Gueye C: “ICTs appropriation by the credit and saving bank for women in Senegal”*Library references:-“Electronic networking for West African Universities: report from a workshop, Accra,Ghana, December 15-17”, Washington, D.C.: African Academy of Sciences: AmericanAssociation for the Advancement of Science, 1993-“Electronic networking in Africa: advancing science and technology for development,Workshop on Science and Technology Communication Networks in Africa, August 27-29,Nairobi, Kenya”, Washington, D.C.: African Academy of Sciences: American Association forthe Advancement of Science, 1993-Pfister, Roger (1996), “Internet for Africans and others interested” in “Africa: anintroduction to the Internet and a comprehensive compilation of relevant addresses”, Bern:Swiss Society of African Studies;-Ba Abdoul (1999),“The Internet for African journalists“, Paris : Institute Panos, Karthala, *-Ba Abdoul (2003), “The Internet, cyberspace, and uses in Africa”, Paris: LHarmattan, *- Kuntze Marco (1996), “The Internet in Africa: political implications of new informationtechnology”, London: University of London, School of Oriental and African Studies 9
  • 10. - Ntambue Tshimbulu R (2001), “The Internet, its web and its email in Africa“, Paris:LHarmattan,*-Smith M (2003), “Globalizing Africa“, Trenton, NJ, Africa World Press-Grant R and J. Short (eds) (2002), “Globalization and the margins”, London, Palgrave-Cheru Fantu (2002), “African renaissance: Roadmaps to the challenge of Globalization”London Zed*: translated in English by my self. 10