World Bank to invest $215 million in African internet

Plan to increase the reach of ICT

The World Bank is going to spend $215 million to bring reliable, high-speed and low-cost internet access to central Africa.

Despite being the fastest-growing telecoms market in the world, Africa's broadband growth has been hamstrung by costly international bandwidth and patchy national infrastructure, impeding development and deterring investors.

The initial $26.2 million phase of the central African Backbone programme will involve Cameroon, Chad and the Central African Republic.

Other countries that will be eligible to get involved with the programme include Congo-Brazzaville, Equatorial Guinea, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Niger, Nigeria, Sao Tome and Principe, and Sudan.

The 10-year programme is being supported by a partnership between the World Bank Group and the African Development Bank.

"Our goal is to develop regional and national broadband backbones and significantly reduce the cost of ICT services in Central Africa," said Mohsen Khalil, director of global information and communications technologies at the World Bank Group.

In Africa, there are 10 undersea cables either under construction or in the planning stages. The increased capacity these could bring should reduce international bandwidth rates and increase the number of broadband users.

US-based advisory firm AfricaNext Investment Research expects Africa's broadband market to grow more than fourfold in five years to 12.7 million users, from 2.7 million in 2007.

This growth will be facilitated by new submarine cables and national networks due to launch this year and next, and the emergence of wireless technology such as EVDO and WiMax.

 - Reuters

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