Wednesday, December 04, 2002


The African Studies Association Roundtable (see below) has sought people who could share their direct experience of negotiating the Internet in Africa. I don’t have much such experience to share, but I might make some comments from my experience within donor organizations. I will try to illustrate a few points:
· Negotiations don’t always take place where you might think they do;
· The negotiating position of donor agencies, itself the result of negotiations, influences the outcomes of negotiations in Africa;
· To some degree one can predict donor negotiating positions from their published policies and from knowledge about the donor organizations;
· To some degree one can predict the effect of the donor agencies from an understanding of the institutionalization of the interface between donors and African nations.

Let me begin with a few cases:

1. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) used its Leland Initiative in order to promote policies conducive to the rollout of the Internet in Africa. The Initiative was the subject of considerable Congressional interest, perhaps because it was named in honor of a U.S. Congressman who died on a fact finding mission to Africa, and perhaps because the Republican Senate was skeptical of the Democratic Administration’s initiative. It was modestly funded, given the magnitude of its task of promoting the rollout of the Internet in Africa, but it was the centerpiece of USAID’s efforts on ICT in Africa. USAID and the U.S. Department of State collaborated closely in the policy dialog. The program involved policy dialog with African nations, with its representatives striving for policies favoring open competition among Internet Service Providers (ISPs), cost-based pricing of Internet-enabling telecommunications services, and freedom of content on the Internet. Technical assistance, financial assistance for installation of VSAT terminals, and training for potential Internet users in development organizations were offered as incentives to countries that had or moved toward policies appropriately favorable to the development of the Internet. This negotiating stance was arrived upon as a result of debate among professional staff within USAID, and discussions between representatives of USAID, the Department of State, the Congress, and other organizations.
2. The World Bank Group was a significant lender for telecommunications infrastructure projects, utilizing its loan windows through the 1980’s. The Bank in this respect was an intermediary, getting funds from other sources and making loans available to African nations at rates lower than they would otherwise obtain (as a result of risk sharing, and subsidies from the Bank’s donors). With the development of the so-called “Washington Consensus”, which included concepts about the superiority of private sector approaches over governmental provision of (telephone) services, the Bank Group essentially ceased making such loans. Instead it switched action to the International Finance Corporation (IFC) within the Group, using IFC investments and technical assistance in order to facilitate private sector investment in telecommunications. The Bank policy group has consistently offered policy advice and services to developing nations. The Bank’s negotiating position thus switched from one enabling governmental telecommunications investments through development finance, to one encouraging privatization by facilitating the flows of financing to privatized telecommunications companies. This stance was undoubtedly arrived upon in part by Bank staffers examination of the research on telecommunications, and the recognition that governmental telecommunications agencies would be less effective in raising funds for investment in telecommunications infrastructure than would be the private sector. The enthusiasm for telecommunications investment in global markets in the late 1990’s must have been noted. It would seek likely that the Directors of the Bank, representing the member nations, and especially the major contributors to the Bank, also played a role in moving Bank policy toward the Washington Consensus, as did the Presidents of the Bank.
3. The ITU Regulatory Forum was established by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and infoDev to provide a forum in which regulators, industry, scholars, and others could discuss regulatory matters. Of course, this supplemented the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Assembly, which is a forum for discussion of telecommunications policy issues among the representatives to the ITU of its member states. When the ITU withdrew its sponsorship from the Forum, infoDev offered a challenge grant for a non-governmental organization to develop a sustainable independent regulatory forum. The result was the World Dialog on Regulation for Network Economies. The African Connection has also received two grants from infoDev to encourage communication among African policy makers on telecommunications issues and policies. infoDev is a program hosted by the World Bank, and receiving funds from a consortium of donors. In funding the activities noted above, it has acted on the assumption that better understanding of policy issues relating to telecommunications, and specifically to the Internet, would improve the negotiations involved in rapidly and sustainably expanding the information infrastructure. The decision of infoDev to support these initiatives can be understood within the context of infoDev’s grant review process, the bureaucratic processes and staffing of the World Bank, as well as the influence of infoDev’s various donors, and also in terms of infoDev’s mission of providing relatively small grants to facilitate improve ICT policy and pilot ICT applications in developing nations.
4. The U.S. Telecommunications Training Institute was created as a U.S. initiative at the beginning of the Reagan Administration. Supported by contributions from a consortium of firms, its secretariat arranges for courses telecommunications courses offered in the U.S. to be attended by people from developing nations without charge. USAID has supported the transportation and living costs of many trainees, and has emphasized support for African experts with that funding. The U.S. delegate to the ITU Assembly provided the key leadership in the creation of USTTI, and the program has been described by subsequent U.S. delegates to ITU meetings as making a significant improvement in the negotiating climate. The improvement in the negotiation atmosphere has been attributed both to better understanding of various parties of the rationale for positions of the others, and for improved relations with the large number of delegates to ITU meetings who have benefited from USTTI training. The ITU plays a key role in international telecommunications policy, and is where key decisions on spectrum allocation and other matters are made. It is an important source for technical information and assistance on telecommunications. U.S. officials often share an ideological belief in technical rather than political solutions in international affairs – a belief which probably helped in the creation of USTTI. The creation of USTTI should be understood in terms of the policies of the Reagan Administration, and the efforts of U.S. industry to be and be seen as socially responsible, as well as the bureaucratic processes within the U.S. government and industry.

Where do negotiations take place? One thing I think these examples illustrate is that negotiations relevant to the Internet take place not only within a national setting, but also internationally. They take place in the ITU. Moving discussions to forums like the World Dialogue on Regulation relieves people from the responsibility to promote and fully support the negotiating positions of the organizations that they represent and allows them more freedom in discussions. Regional forums are also important for some issues. And of course, negotiations that determine the U.S. negotiating position on African Internet rollout take place largely within the United States, as negotiations about other donor agencies’ positions take place in the offices of those agencies.

Why are donor agencies important in African Internet negotiations? Foreign donor agencies play a larger role in decision making in Sub-Saharan Africa than in other regions because:
· African governments on the average depend more on foreign aid for their budgets than nations in other regions;
· Many African governments are relatively weak or lacking in stability, and therefore draw on the institutional strength and continuity of donor agencies;
· Donor agencies have been able to place highly qualified personnel in key locations to participate in decision making as consultants or technical assistance experts, and thus draw on the personal intellectual authority of these people;
· Many African governments depend on donor agencies for occasional emergency assistance, giving those agencies influence not only during the period of emergency but also in other times.
Moreover, the donors use powerful instruments in their negotiations. As the cases above illustrate, the donors, of course, adduce evidence based conceptual arguments. They also offer subsidies for countries with policies the donors desire (as USAID did with the Leland initiative), and change the cost and availability of policy options (as the World Bank did with the change from lending to government to facilitating the flow of private investment). One suspects that the U.S. State Department representatives who worked with the Leland Initiative offered other inducements for adoption of pro-Internet policies.

How can one predict the positions of the donor agencies? In analyzing donor negotiation positions, one can consider (in addition to the classification of the donor given below):
a. The charter and formal mission of the donor agency;
b. The governance of the agency;
c. Spheres of influence (e.g. Commonwealth agencies are more active in Commonwealth countries, French in Francophone countries);
d. Sources of financing;
i. Government allocations;
ii. Tax financing;
iii. Commercial sources of financing, etc.
e. Organizational dynamics; and
f. Staffing.
Thus, UN Agencies, governed by Assemblies with a one-country, one-vote rule tend to have different objectives than multilateral banks (which are most responsive to their largest donors), while bilateral agencies are most likely to reflect the (multiple) objectives of their governments. Bilateral agencies, dependent on parliamentary budget allocations are likely to be more political in operation than endowed foundations. Yet foundations and non-governmental foundations, dependent on tax financing, are likely to be constrained in their negotiating instruments by the tax laws under which they operate. USAID did not enjoy the telecommunications expertise in its staff for which the ITU excels, and was probably limited by this factor in starting the Leland Initiative mentioned above.

The influence of individual donors should not be overestimated. The Donor agencies are many and diverse. For example, there are:
· The International Financial Institutions such as the World Bank and the African Development Bank;
· The UN family of Agencies, including the ITU, UNESCO, the UNDP, and UNECA;
· Bilateral Donors, including USAID and many European bilateral donors;
· Foundations;
· Private Voluntary Organizations channeling donations from the private sector to Africa; and
· Corporate Donors.
· There are hybrid organizations, and partnerships are increasingly common.

How has the interface between donors and African nations has been institutionalized? In predicting the effect of donor negotiating positions on African outcomes, it would be a mistake to assume that the donors represent a single unified negotiating unit. One metaphor that might help understand the situation would be to consider donor agencies as the suppliers in a number of markets, such as a market for development finance and the one for technical assistance. Developing country organizations would be equated with the consumers in such markets. Of course the market analogy is not exact, but negotiations between donors and recipients do take place in a situation in which each may negotiate with others; governments may engage in donor shopping, and donors may take their resources to other countries for deals that better achieve their objectives. Negotiation would take place not only between donors and governments of developing nations, but among donors, and indeed within donor agencies. The donors will tend to form coalitions to encourage certain kinds of policies, but the nations also form coalitions, and in fact have direct roles in the governance of multilateral donor agencies. One may also note that “geographic spheres of influence or focus”, specialization in assistance instruments (e.g. financing versus technical assistance), and topical specializations have been institutionalized in the interface. Moreover, some donors deal only with governments, while others only with non-governmental organizations.

Negotiating the Internet for Africa turns out to be an international undertaking, and one of considerable complexity. Donor agencies count; and to some degree their negotiating positions and instruments can be predicted. If an African country differs from the policy desired by the European nation which once colonized its lands, it can reduce dependency on the former colonial power by seeking assistance from another bilateral donor, multilateral donors, or indeed its neighbors. And while I favor policies based on theory and evidence of what works, I must admit that there is room for considerable debate on what those policies might be.

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