In your almost two years at the helm of the ministry, how has the IT and telecommunications sector evolved, and what proposals have been put in place to boost its development?
The Ministry of Telecommunications, Information Technology, and Social Communication emerged as the result of a government reform. The telecommunications sector in Angola is transversal in terms of the services it includes. The country is strongly committed to diversifying its economy, and, consequently, its telecommunications needs are key to achieving the aforementioned objective. In recent years, significant investments have been launched within the sector. The country has roughly 22,000km of fiber optic cable, and we are also served by three submarine cables: the SAT-3, SAT-2, and MONET. All this is an indication of our quest for improved telecommunications infrastructures across the country. Angola has a telecommunications strategy that is part of the National Development Plan. We aim to become the telecommunications hub in our region, and in order to achieve this, we have made highly specific and strategic investments. We provide support for the submarine cable systems, which will ensure that inland African countries are able to connect to the rest of the world. We have been working in the spirit of the African Union to promote digitalization across the continent. Furthermore, we are currently negotiating the implementation of a project that will improve the country's entire broadband infrastructure. We have recently modified the ways in which we used to license companies that offer services in the telecommunications sector. We have global licenses, or unified global titles (UGT), that enable any operator to offer a range of telecommunications services without exception in Angola.
Since several companies are willing to enter different segments within the telecommunications sector, is more regulation needed, or are the current legislative provisions adequate?
We will need to constantly update the applicable provisions as communications develop. For the time being, however, our legislation is sufficient to meet the needs of communications service providers. In addition to the UGT, we have multi-service licenses. Any company registered in Angola can, by means of a simple application, obtain a multi-service license, free of charge, that facilitates the provision of all telecommunication services, including mobile telephone service. We are working to put in place the elements necessary to have a mobile payment service that is supported by our telecommunications infrastructure. The rapid advancement of communications means we will need to adjust quickly to these changes in the market.
The latest official data indicates that 31% of the population has regular access to the internet. What strategies are you using to increase this figure?
First and foremost, we are working to extend access to the network in rural areas. In addition, we must improve the quality of the service in urban areas. Within the scope of the agreements with operators, there are targets to be met, one of which is upgrading the quality of the equipment. The regulator has already stipulated, for example, that operators must stop using 2G technology since it does not support internet services. Thanks to this measure, they will begin using 3G and 4G wireless connections. Furthermore, we have just completed a tender for a mobile connectivity UGT, for which the company Africell was the winner. With the awarding of this license, we intend to extend telecommunication services coverage, improve their efficiency, and increase their availability. Today, we have close to 14 million mobile phone users in Angola, and we hope to reach 20.25 million in the next five years through the investments we are making in this area. Beyond that, we have a number of programs to guarantee increased internet access in schools, since internet connection in our schools is a crucial tool in the development of young Angolans. We also have a free program called Angola Online to provide internet in public areas. The initiative provides a free internet service to which citizens can connect by using their devices. It is a large-scale digital inclusion program. We also created a program called the Angola Media Library Network to boost the digital literacy of our communities. These are public spaces that have been created to provide young people with free access to the internet as well as to various digital services.
Angola has recently attracted the attention of global start-ups and companies with an online presence, especially mobile apps. How does the Ministry of Telecommunications plan to support these companies?
On a government level, we have set up an incubator to facilitate the emergence of local start-ups, as well as a technological training center that has enabled several young entrepreneurs to get their projects off the ground. However, some alignment with the business sector is necessary in order to provide financial support for such initiatives. The National Bank of Angola also finances start-up projects. There is interest in ensuring the development of start-ups in an organized way, which is why we are now looking to put together an appropriate financing model. We provide these start-ups and other small businesses with opportunities to showcase themselves and support their participation in international events.
Today, six data centers currently provide services in Luanda. What can such services bring to the telecommunication sector in Angola?
Data centers are of great importance to the sector, and we are looking to set up additional data center initiatives here. We have six large data centers in operation, though this is insufficient for the increasing market demand. This sector offers excellent business opportunities, and our market is willing to support them. Our market still has much room for growth with regards to telecommunications as a whole, data center services, and improving the quality of communications.
It is clear that significant efforts are being made by the private and public sector to help the sector grow. What are the main objectives for the ministry in 2022?
All this development has to do with the support that the private sector has provided within the scope of policies outlined by the Angolan government. It is a fairly liberalized sector in which the adoption of technology is open to anyone. There is almost no bureaucracy involved when it comes to the emergence of new players in the telecommunication sector, and the possibilities for growth are boundless. We are always available to provide support in any way we can.