In the 1990s, Africa had the lowest density of telephones in the world – a fact that may still be true for years to come. Making the world of telecommunications accessible to its inhabitants poses an enormous challenge, even if it does present investment opportunities in an industry with annual growth estimates of up to 40%.
In May 1998, South Africa’s then minister of posts and telecommunications, Jay Naidoo, together with 22 other African ministers of communication, launched The African Connection, a framework for accelerating the development of telecommunications infrastructure throughout Africa. The document was adopted by the 44 countries of the Pan African Telecommunications Union (PATU) as its five-year plan of action, and received enthusiastic support from the World Bank, African Development Bank and the Development Bank of Southern Africa.
Central to the success of the plan would be the establishment of telecentres throughout the continent, a process that was to roll out in tandem with a worldwide promotional and media campaign. Such a campaign would be powerful only if allied to an event more newsworthy than the construction of the telecentres – and so, the African Connection Rally was born, an event designed to inspire potential investors into developing mutually rewarding business partnerships.