10,000 km undersea cable to connect 21 African countries

In line with the campaign to make information and communication technology (ICT) a driver of African development, a major project connecting the continent with Europe by undersea fibre-optic cable will be undertaken next month.

10,000 km undersea cable to connect 21 African countries
'The project will transform the African telecommunication landscape and have a direct positive impact on business in East Africa,' Lars Thunell, chief executive of the International Finance Corporation (IFC), said.

Under this $235 million project to be carried out by a consortium called the East Africa Submarine Cable System (EASSy), a 10,000 km fibre-optic cable will be laid on the seabed that will connect 21 eastern, southern and central African countries to West Africa and Europe, South African news agency BuaNews reported Friday.

French firm Alcatel-Lucent Submarine Networks will lay the cable, while firms from Britain, India, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and the US are also part of the ambitious venture.

Internet reaches only four percent of the population in Africa and users pay the world's highest fees to connect at the slowest speeds and that too, when the continent's notoriously erratic power supply and satellite connections permit.

But, IFC has said in a statement, EASSy is intended to change all this. Once completed, it is expected to provide digital access to 250 million people or one in every four Africans.

Consumers along Africa's east coast typically pay $200-$300 a month for Internet access, the IFC said, and added that EASSy would cut the cost by two-thirds at the outset and the number of subscribers would triple.

The cable will run along the floor of the western Indian Ocean and connect South Africa, Mozambique, Madagascar, Tanzania, Kenya, Somalia, Djibouti and Sudan. At its southern end, it will join cables serving West Africa and Europe.

Thirteen adjoining countries will be linked to the system as additional networks are completed through a broader World Bank initiative. These countries are Botswana, Burundi, the Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Chad, Ethiopia, Lesotho, Malawi, Rwanda, Swaziland, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

In its statement, the IFC said it would provide $18.2 million out of $70.7 million in long-term loans sought by the EASSy consortium.

The rest would come from the African Development Bank, European Investment Bank, German development bank KfW and French development bank AFD. The European Union would also provide some financing.

Most of the money for the project is to come from 25 private telecommunications operators that make up the 29-company EASSy consortium, the others being government entities. Of the private firms, 21 are African and these will be the cable's main users, the IFC said.


IANS

Güncelleme Tarihi: 02 Aralık 2007, 19:10
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