AfDB commits EUR 52 million to the Republic of Congo for broadband and e-services development

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On Wednesday, May 18, 2016, the Board of Directors of the African Development Bank Group (AfDB) approved a EUR 52.04-million loan to the Government of the Republic of Congo to help finance the Congo component of the regional Central Africa fibre-optic Backbone (CAB) project. The loan will fund the deployment of fibre-optic telecommunications in Congo and the introduction of new e-services, benefiting to the Congolese population.

"The overall objective of the project is to contribute to the diversification of Congo's economy. The increase of the use of ICT and e-services will positively impacting sectors from agriculture, to education, health and commerce, creating new opportunities and jobs," said Amadou Oumarou, Director of the Transport and ICT Department at the AfDB.

The Republic of Congo has direct access to only one submarine fibre-optic cable and, like the rest of the region, limited terrestrial fibre-optic links to neighbouring countries. This has repercussions regionally, in terms of connectivity, and nationally, in terms of pricing. In turn, lack of access to competitive fibre has slowed adoption of e-services and the modernisation of the economy. The approved Bank's project will contribute to address that gap from 2020.

"The project will break the digital isolation of rural areas, coupled with regional integration, linking Congo network with Cameroon and Central African Republic," explained Samatar Omar Eimi, AfDB Senior ICT Engineer and team leader of the project.

The project will (i) deploy 550 kilometres of fibre-optic cables, between Congo-Brazzaville, via Ouesso to the borders with Cameroon and the Central African Republic; (ii) Support to the sector regulator will be provided to ensure appropriate pricing of and access to the fibre; (iii) build a National Data Centre for the Government; (iv) introduce new ICT applications and services (e-Post, emergency warning system) to leverage improved broadband connectivity; and (v) extend ICT usage and learning through support to women's centres, digital community centres, community radio, the institutes for the blind and deaf, and to Marien Ngouabi University.

On completion, the project is expected to improve access of the population to ICT services; reduce the cost of access to telecoms and ICT services with a more than 60% reduction in international bandwidth costs; contribute to social, economic and financial inclusion within the country (with e-post beneficiaries of 5,000 per year by 2020, and the number of indigenous people benefiting from community radio to increase from 0 to 90,000 by 2020); improve the availability of training and ICT access in institutions of higher education and to women, and those with disabilities (10,000 women and 350 blind and deaf people with access to IT training by 2020); and improve government administration.

The total cost of the project is estimated to be EUR 66.56 million (about CFAF 43.66 billion). Financing comprises the loan from the AfDB with the balance to be provided by the Government of the Republic of Congo.

The construction of that fibre-optic section in Congo will connect with another important section to be built in Cameroon, a project approved by the Bank in 2015. At a global level, 11 countries of Central Africa will be connected through the intervention of the Bank and its development partners.