Governing regional telecommunication networks in a developing region: the SADC case

Doctoral Thesis


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University of Cape Town

One of the political and economic responses to globalisation and the associated rise of multilateral trade agreements is the integration of national markets and their governance within regions. As developing economies have become increasingly integrated into the global economy, the harmonisation of policies and standardisation of regulations to create economies of scale and scope, has been one of the primary strategies to improve regional competitiveness. With the global economy underpinned by a dynamic communication infrastructure, African regional economic communities (RECs) have increasingly recognised the importance of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in realising the vision of regional integration, and as a major determinant of national and regional competitiveness. Despite member states' acknowledgement of the need for regional connectivity, many initiatives across Africa aimed at supporting and establishing harmonised ICT policy frameworks have not had the intended outcomes. Strategies for developing seamless regional ICT infrastructures - necessary for the achievement of universal policy objectives of improved access to, and usage of, affordable broadband services now widely demonstrated to drive economic growth - have not been realised. Through a case study of regional policy-making in the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the thesis examines the political economy underlying regional processes and structures for the development and the implementation of ICT policy frameworks, as shaped by epistemic communities. A conceptual framework is constructed as a lens through which to assess the role of capacity building as a tool in foreign affairs in the institutional arrangements within SADC countries and ICT policy outcomes in the region. This reveals the wider political, economic and more specific policy and regulatory constraints hampering the development of the information society from a developing region perspective. Applying a hybrid methodology, empirical information was gathered through quantitative secondary data but using qualitative methods to gather the primary evidence for the case. This evidence from multiple sources is examined through a broad political economy framework to contextualise the research problem and develop a rich narrative of regional integration efforts in the area of information communication technologies in the Southern African Development Community (SADC). Following rigorous and extensive gathering of information from face to face interviews following an exhaustive document analysis, detailed coding of the data and triangulation of findings enable d an analysis of how institutional arrangement s in the region -despite the accepted rationale and logic of market integration -have largely failed to achieve the intended IV ICT policy objectives stated in SADC protocols and declarations despite considerable advances in the formal harmonisation of aspects of ICT policy and regulation.

Includes bibliographical references