Last month, ITU Telecom World 2009 welcomed an unprecedented number of high-level guests - Heads of State, Ministers, CEOs and industry gurus – to showcase, explore and debate the future of information and communication technologies and services. A great many of these participants made their way to Geneva from Africa, Asia and the Middle East – proof, I think, that the balance is shifting away from the increasingly saturated markets of the North in favour of the many exciting opportunities that abound in emerging economies. Many of the world’s most vibrant markets for mobile services are now found in Africa, and the continent itself is beginning to pioneer innovations, such as Mobile Banking, that are being enthusiastically adopted by operators worldwide. This is a major step forward for Africa, which is transitioning from a pure consumer of technology to a technology innovator in its own right – a key paradigm shift that I think will have a snowball effect in fuelling economic growth in those nations with the vision to put ICTs at the heart of their development strategies. The high African presence on the ITU Telecom World show floor also testified to Africa’s increasing openness to public-private partnership as a way of driving network build-out and the launch of new services. Indeed, investment in ICT infrastructure in Africa has increased dramatically in recent years, reaching US$ 8 billion in 2007 - more than double the figure of US$ 3.5 billion invested in the year 2000. These figures reflect an increasingly vibrant private sector investment climate, which has been stimulated by the opening of most African ICT markets to competition, coupled with the establishment of independent regulators in almost 90 per cent of countries in the Sub-Saharan region. This highly dynamic environment is translating into lower prices for consumers and significantly widened access to telecommunications, particularly for mobile services in urban areas. Africa’s mobile market was the fastest-growing market of all world regions in the early years of the new millennium, growing at twice the rate of the global market. That saw the number of subscribers leap from just 11 million in 2000 to 246 million by 2008. Mobile now outnumbers fixed line penetration by nearly 5:1. But despite this very encouraging trend, the high-speed Internet services needed for important business, government and consumer applications continue to be either very expensive or simply not available. This is Africa’s next big challenge: to find innovative, fast ways of bridging the broadband divide, so that all Africans are empowered to become active participants in and contributors to the emerging Knowledge Society. This dream can become a reality. Our challenge is to make it come true by 2012, so that ICT plays the key role of catalyst for other sectors in meeting their own Millennium Development Goals through applications like e-health, e-education, e-commerce, e-government and more. Let me take this opportunity to wish Africa Telecoms every success in charting the progress of ICT development in one of the world’s most exciting and auspicious markets.