At long last the World Bank has approved a US$164.5 million package to connect East and Southern Africa to the global broadband infrastructure – which will enable cheaper access to the internet and international phonecalls.
The total cost of the project is estimated to be US$424 million. The Bank's money is currently limited to connecting Burundi, Madagascar and Kenya, although "other eligible countries in East and Southern Africa can join future phases of the program on a readiness basis".
The region is the one remaining part of the world to be connected to the fibre optic network that many of us take for granted, with 20 countries relying on expensive satellite technology. This means their citizens have to fork out much more to communicate with each other: they pay around US$92 to spend 20 hours online compared to the world average of US$40.
It’s about time Africa got connected, particularly given the recent announcement of Kenya’s withdrawal from the EASSy project. I wonder if the release of these new funds might persuade Kenya to reconsider.