NetAfrica is established as a modern, flexible and decentralized network covering the whole African continent from north to south. It is primarily communications-based, using the full range of ICT tools for information exchange, sharing, workgroups, debates and advocacy, research and development. It facilitates initiatives to develop voluntary “constellations” – regional, language-based or activity-oriented communities of interest – and help coordinate among such groups (existing or future) as required.
It makes use of existing resources rather than setting up parallel structures: discussion lists, websites, collections of information resources in different languages and so on, tying them together in a “network of networks” based on voluntary adherence and national initiatives and seeking to promote complementary rather than overlapping initiatives.
NetAFRICA helps ensure that the processes and results of initiatives of external partners that may involve a few networks are adequately shared and debated and the lessons learned, and it assists constellation initiatives to mobilize resources for their activities.
As the existing African networks are fully engaged in supporting their national telecentre activities they do not have the human capacity or resources to undertake much additional work. Nor is it desirable to aim at establishing a central structure that could itself require more in resources than the resulting benefit to community ICT initiatives at national level can justify. NetAFRICA therefore continues to operate on the principles established so far in the African telecentre movement: incremental growth, voluntary collaboration in international networks where mutual interest and benefits predominate, and not making promises to its members that may not be fulfilled.
It is desirable to have core funding for a small multilingual secretariat that could operate out of different networks, with adequate personnel, communications and resources to fund its activities plan. Until that stage can be guaranteed, NetAFRICA governance is undertaken by a volunteer group established on the lines of the Telecentre Leaders Forum, with representatives from each main official language group on the continent (French, Arabic, English and Portuguese) and each formal regional or other constellation. Tasks are divided up on a voluntary basis and implemented to the degree possible. Consultations with all national networks are carried out through the communications systems.
NetAFRICA positions itself as part of African civil society, and seeks to dialogue with and lobby national governments, regional institutions and African Union bodies in order to improve conditions for the national networks, promote equality of access to and use of ICTs and the concepts of ICT4D.