/ 27 November 2007

EASSy cable gets $70-million funding

International lenders have signed up a $70-million loan for the construction of a pan-African submarine cable to slash communication costs in the region, an official said on Tuesday.

Five lenders, including World Bank’s International Finance Corporation and the African Development Bank, will deliver the money for the 23-nation East Africa Submarine System (EASSy) cable that will run from South Africa to Sudan.

”We have been talking for years and now the real work begins after raising a quarter of the total cost,” estimated to be $235-million, said Sammy Kirui, who chairs the EASSy consortium.

Construction work will start in mid-December and the cable is expected to be ready for commissioning in the first quarter of 2009, added Kirui, also managing director state-owned Telkom Kenya.

The EASSy project had been delayed over disagreements between member nations over its financing, access and management.

Kenya also plans to build its own cable costing 5,5-billion shillings ($82-million) linking its port city of Mombasa to Fujairah in the Gulf of Oman to cut communication costs.

African countries still spend about $400-million a year to route voice and data traffic through the expensive bandwidth from Africa back to Africa through Europe and North America, where such services are a fraction of the cost.

Despite infrastructure improvements, notably in more Africa’s more developed nations, only 2,5% of Africans have internet access compared to 17,8% in the rest of the world. – Sapa-AFP