AfDB supports Submarine Fiber Optic Cable for Western Africa

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A Senior Loan of up to USD 66 million to finance the Main One Project

Tunis – 28 May 2009- The Board of Directors of the African Development Bank Group (AfDB) approved financing of USD 66 million towards the Main One Cable Company for developing a submarine fiber optic cable connection along the West African coast. With this investment, the Bank has further expanded its wide support for African ICT projects following investments in the East African “EaSSy” submarine cable and the two satellites Rascom and New Dawn.

The project totaling USD 240 million will involve the laying of 7,000 kilometers of submarine fiber optic cable between Seixal (a suburb of Lisbon) in Portugal, Accra in Ghana, and Lagos in Nigeria. The system will be based on a trunk-and-branch topology and include branching units to the Canary Islands, Morocco, Senegal, and Côte d’Ivoire, as shown in the photo. The 1.92 Tbps of available bandwidth will be leased wholesale to telecom operators and internet service providers on an open access basis, thereby encouraging competitive pricing and a large customer base. The project has already attracted broad interest and MST, the Nigerian based sponsor, is in the process of securing long term contracts with a number of the largest operators in Nigeria and Ghana.

This investment comes at an opportune time to unlock the constrained West African telecommunications market and catalyze the economic potential of the region. A compelling opportunity exists to lower the restrictive cost of international telecommunications and significantly expand internet access via submarine cable, which will lead to greater efficiency and more competitive business. Main One is an important step towards realizing this opportunity.

The considerable increase in available bandwidth from the Main One cable will provide telecom operators with the additional capacity they require to expand networks and mobilize a broader range of services. The system will contribute to an immediate 50 percent drop in the price of bandwidth in Nigeria and Ghana, and continued price reduction is anticipated over time:

“The project’s main positive outcomes stem from its strong infrastructure development effects. By dramatically lowering the cost of ICT services, annual cost savings to West African consumers will range from USD 30 million in the early years to USD 160 million within 10 years.”
- Tim Turner, Private Sector Director.

The Main One project aligns closely with the Bank’s infrastructure orientation and private sector development strategy, and the ICT Strategy for 2008-2010 in particular. Specifically, the project is congruent with the Bank’s Country Strategy Papers (CSP) for Nigeria and Ghana which both underscore private sector intervention in the infrastructure space. In addition, Main One ties in with the Bank’s role as a lead agency implementing the medium- to long-term strategic framework of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). 

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