Submarine cable project okayed

The protocol on the policy and regulatory framework for the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) ICT Broadband Infrastructure Network—known as the Kigali Protocol has come into force.

The protocol on the policy and regulatory framework for the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) ICT Broadband Infrastructure Network—known as the Kigali Protocol has come into force.

Bingu Wa Mutharika, the President of Malawi, in Lilongwe ratified the protocol when he signed it. Ratification by seven countries was the majority needed to bring the protocol into force.

Lesotho, Mauritius, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe have already ratification it.

The NEPAD e-Africa Commission, tasked with developing ICT policies, strategies and projects, and managing the development of the ICT sector, has been coordinating the signing and ratification of the Kigali Protocol.

Said Dr Henry Chasia, the Executive Deputy Chairperson of the NEPAD e-Africa Commission: "What this development means is that we can now go ahead to quickly implement the NEPAD ICT Broadband Infrastructure Network, comprising of UHURUNET (the submarine cable), and UMOJANET (the terrestrial segment), to provide quality and affordable telecommunications connectivity to Eastern and Southern Africa and to the rest of the African continent.

"This network will be a major step in interconnecting the African continent and thus helping to bridge the digital divide and improving the lives of Africans.

"The partnerships and collaboration among African countries will be epitomised by the joint ownership, development and operation of the NEPAD network," Dr. Chasia said.

"The countries that did not sign the Kigali Protocol by the deadline of 30 November 2006 can now accede to the Protocol and benefit from the NEPAD network", Dr. Chasia said.

The Kigali Protocol was negotiated by a wide range of stakeholders and was accepted and signed by 12 countries in Eastern and Southern Africa.

It takes account of the NEPAD network principles in the development of a policy and regulatory framework for the region, as well as in the details of Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) that will own, operate and maintain the NEPAD network.

Said Dr. Edmund Katiti, the NEPAD ICT policy and regulatory advisor: "We can now take the necessary steps to bring together entities that were nominated to be shareholders in the NEPAD submarine SPV to discuss issues such as a shareholders agreement, and thereafter form the SPV.

"We expect construction of the submarine cable to start soon, and to be completed before the 2010 FIFA World Cup".

It is envisaged that once implemented, the NEPAD ICT Broadband Infrastructure Initiative will greatly reduce the costs of telecommunications and increase the efficiency and effectiveness of how Africa does business with the rest of the world. The countries that signed the Kigali Protocol are: Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

The inaugural signing of the NEPAD Broadband ICT Infrastructure Network was held in Kigali, Rwanda on 29 August 2006.

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