Ministers responsible for information and communication technologies (ICTs) from Eastern and Southern African countries have endorsed a $2bn submarine cable project to connect Africa.
According to Nepad’s online weekly, the ministers meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa called for its speedy implementation.
The 50,000 km cable with a capacity of 3.84 Terrabits/sec is designed to provide telecommunications connectivity to Africa and connect the continent to the Americas, India, and Europe.
It is expected that completion of this project will greatly contribute to reduction of telecommunications costs that have been a hindrance to doing business in Africa.
“Recognising the urgent need to have ICT broadband infrastructure to support high-quality, high-speed and reliable electronic communications in Africa and connecting to the rest of the world at affordable prices thus accelerating regional and continental integration, we welcome this initiative and recommit ourselves to ensuring a speedy implementation of this important project”, said the Ugandan Minister for ICT, Dr. Ham Mukasa Mulira, who chaired the meeting.
The ministers named the submarine segment of the NEPAD network UHURUNET; its terrestrial segment, UMOJANET; and recommended the holding company of the submarine cable be named BAHARICOM. Under the arrangement, NEPAD Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) will be the largest single shareholder.
“We have accordingly directed the NEPAD e-Africa Commission to present on our behalf the proposed submarine cable system to African ministers responsible for information and communication technologies (ICTs) and/or telecommunications, and to the Summit of the Heads of State and Government,” Dr. Mulira added.
The Government of Rwanda has invited African Ministers to a Connect Africa Summit to be held in Kigali on 29-30 October 2007, under the patronage of President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, President Agyekum Kufour, the President of Ghana and current Chairperson of the African Union, and other invited Heads of State.
Benefits of an African-owned cable
South Africa’s Minister for Communications, Dr. Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri said experiences in South Africa and Mauritius show that private sector-led undersea cable projects, where ‘private clubs’ decide the cost of telecommunications, have never been beneficial to countries in urgent need of affordable broadband connectivity.
The NEPAD cable, she said, would be majority African owned, and added that the best initiatives for Africa were those that were not only geared towards making profits but also considered Africa’s development concerns.
Role of NEPAD e-Africa Commission
Collaboration on the construction of a high-capacity submarine cable system initiative to connect Africa to the rest of the world is being coordinated by the NEPAD e-African Commission.
Said Dr.Henry Chasia, executive deputy Chairperson of the e-Africa Commission: “This is a joint collaboration to leverage different submarine cable initiatives for the development of a high-capacity African submarine cable as part of the accelerated implementation of the Kigali Protocol.
“This submarine cable will provide for landing points in all coastal and island countries and participants will benefit from economies of scale.”
To enable all African countries enjoy the benefits of UHURUNET and UMOJANET, the ministers directed the NEPAD E-Africa Commission to work with the African Union Commission to develop the modalities to enable any African country to access the Kigali Protocol.
It is expected that the cable will be completed before the FIFA 2010 World Cup in South Africa. The Kigali Protocol on the policy and regulatory framework for the NEPAD ICT Broadband Infrastructure Network is based on the Constitutive Act of the African Union.
Its main objective is to facilitate and commit the parties to the construction and operation of the Broadband Infrastructure Network on ‘Open Access’ principles of operation, which ensure a level playing field and equal access to the infrastructure.
Hosted by the Rwandan Government and African Union, the protocol signing ceremony of ICT ministers from Eastern and Southern African countries participating in the network, including the submarine cable segment, took place in Kigali, Rwanda on 28-29 August 2006.