Regardless of the indicator considered (telephone density, telecommunication penetration rate in rural areas, availability and efficiency of telecommunications services), Africa, viewed globally, appears to be in every respect, the least developed continent in the area of telecommunications.
Moreover, the virtual non-existence of direct links between African countries compel them, in order to communicate among themselves, to transit through Europe or the United States, entailing charges that amount to several millions of dollars annually.
Increasingly aware of the role of telecommunications as the engine of economic development and recognizing that investment in telecommunications can considerably increase the level of productivity and effectiveness of all the other sectors and improve the quality of life and, furthermore, constitute an element of motivation for any investor, African leaders decided, following several consultations, to combine their efforts in providing the continent with telecommunications infrastructure capable of ensuring the sustainable development of telecommunications in the continent and in each African country, with special emphasis on service to rural areas.
In order to respond to this concern they decided to undertake a feasibility study. The study, which was conducted from 1987 to 1990, involved 50 African countries and 600 African experts in addition to support from international organizations such as the International Telecommunications Union, the United Nations Development Programme and the African Development Bank. Indeed, this was the most comprehensive study ever carried out in the area of telecommunications in Africa.
The findings of the study were adopted by African States in February 1991 in Abuja, Nigeria. The highlights of the study were the following:
In order to implement the findings of the study, African States meeting in Abidjan in May 1992, decided to create the Regional African Satellite Communications Organization: RASCOM.
- A telecommunications satellite tailored to well-defined specifications is the best technological choice for satisfying Africa's telecommunications needs, globally and optimally.
- This system can only be economically and financially viable provided it is designed on a continental scale.
RASCOM is an intergovernmental commercially run organization whose capital is open to the private sector.