The World Bank has extended a grant of US$114.4 million (Ksh7.9 billion) to boost high speed broadband internet connectivity in three African countries. Mr Colin Bruce, the Bank’s country director for East and Central Africa region says this could drastically cut down international calling costs.
Bruce said the Breton Wood institution had approved a $164.5 million IDA (International Development Association) financing package that would help Kenya, Burundi and Madagascar in accessing high speed connectivity.
The funding is the first tranche of the $424 million RCIP (Regional Communications Infrastructure Programme) that seeks to promote cheaper access to communication.
In a statement he read on behalf of outgoing WB President Paul Wolfowitz during the official opening of DIC (Od-Mikayi Development Information Centre), Bruce said East and Southern Africa was the only region in the world that was not connected to the global broadband infrastructure and accounted for less than one per cent of the world’s international bandwidth capacity. As a result of this ‘missing link’, the region relies on satellite connectivity, with costs amongst the highest in the world.
“The region is being held back by the prohibitive costs of international connectivity. Businesses are unable to compete in the global economy; university students suffer because they cannot access the Internet; and Government agencies cannot communicate effectively with each other and their citizens because they are not connected,” read part of his statement.
He said the project would bring affordable high speed connectivity to as many as 25 countries in East and Southern Africa.
The $164.5 million first tranche of funding consists of IDA credits amounting to $114.4 million to Kenya and $30 million to Madagascar and an IDA grant of $20.1 million to Burundi. RCIP is an innovative example of the emphasis on regional integration, which accounts for more than 10 per cent of total World Bank support to Africa.
The funding follows another grant under the Country Assistance Strategy worth over Sh56bn to improve public governance and alleviate poverty by financing projects in western Kenya.
Supporting the Bank’s move, DIC Manager Mr. Joshua Nyamori said improving broadband connectivity will add tremendous public value for Africa. Low cost, high quality communications is essential for economic competitiveness.
“Africa is becoming more plugged in – this is very encouraging for the continent. Our partner countries are sending a strong signal to the world that they are open for business and ready to leap into the information age,” he said.
RCIP financing of terrestrial networks will be a catalyst to attract and maximize private sector investment in telecom infrastructure.
Source: East Africa Business Week