Inner City Press


In Other Media-e.g. Somalia, Ghana, Azerbaijan, The Gambia   For further information, click here to contact us          .

Home -

Search is just below this first article

Reuters AlertNet 8/17/07

Reuters AlertNet 7/14/07 7/19/07 6/29/07 6/14/7 6/1/7

How to Contact Us


Support this work by buying this book

Click on cover for secure site orders

also includes "Toxic Credit in the Global Inner City"

Inner City Press Podcast --

On Africa Telecom, ITU Explains Somalia While Charging $100,000 for Access to Heads of State

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, September 20 -- The International Telecommunications Union, a member of the UN family, has scheduled a "Connect Africa" summit for Kigali, Rwanda at the end of October. In the run-up, ITU secretary-general Hamadoun Toure took questions from reporters at the UN on Wednesday, having handed out a map circling East Africa from Somalia on south as "The Missing Link."  Inner City Press asked about the relative 'Net savvy of Somalis, despite the long lack of a central government. Mr. Toure countered that business people there have to have four or five cell phones, since there is not inter-connectivity.

            The World Bank's Mohsen Khalil also deployed that buzzword, inter-connected, along with the inescapable "convergence." He pointed out that some of the most promising ideas are in developing countries with no "legacy problems." More directly on Somalia, he said that businesses rush in to sell telecom services in post-conflict countries, because where there is instability, people "rely more on phones."

            Toure spoke repeatedly of the profit motives, as an invisible hand. Toure emphasized that he came to ITU from the private sector, and that "there is nothing wrong with profit." Inner City Press asked about ITU's website's solicitation of $100,000 sponsorship commitments from private telecom firms, in exchange for which they are promised that their CEO will appear on TV, logos can be used, "guaranteed slot in high-level panel for CEO," and "access to bilateral meeting rooms." In light of this last, Inner City Press asked if the ITU has any standards to screen potential sponsors, beyond simply their willingness to pay $100,000. Video here, from Minute 25:50.

Mr. Ban and Mr. Toure of the ITU: part of UN or not?

            Mr. Toure said that their willingness to pay "shows their commitment." Many people want access to the heads of state he said will be at the Summit; these have to be screened in some way. So why not by money? 

            Except, one wondered, that this is the UN family. Or is it? Perhaps the ITU, which as Toure pointed out, existed before the UN, is free to sell its logo and to monetize its perceived affiliation with the UN without even the few safeguards in place, for example, in General Assembly Resolution 92(I) of 1946 and in the "Guidelines on Cooperation between the United Nations and the Business Community" issued by the Secretary-General on July 17, 2000. Similar issues have been raised by the UN Development Program's claim to be exempt from the UN's Ethics Office...

* * *

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army (which had to be finalized without the UN's DPA having responded.)  Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

Feedback: Editorial [at]

UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439

Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540

Search WWW Search

Other, earlier Inner City Press are listed here, and some are available in the ProQuest service.

            Copyright 2006-07 Inner City Press, Inc. To request reprint or other permission, e-contact Editorial [at] -

UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439

Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540