The World Bank’s International Finance Corp (IFC) has announced it will invest USD32.5 million in a fibre-optic cable project that will provide internet and international communication services for 21 African countries. The IFC, the private-sector arm of the World Bank that focuses on investing in emerging market economies, said the cable project should improve telecommunications access for 250 million Africans and cut costs for individuals and businesses. The project, called the East African Submarine Cable System, is to run 10,000 kilometres from the continent’s southern tip to the African horn. It will connect South Africa, Mozambique, Madagascar, Tanzania, Kenya, Somalia, Djibouti and Sudan. A further 13 countries will share the system through land links. They are Botswana, Burundi, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Chad, Ethiopia, Lesotho, Malawi, Rwanda, Swaziland, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Mohsen Khalil, IFC’s director of global information and communications technologies, said in an interview the project’s total cost will be USD235 million and said it is a cooperative effort between private and public interests designed to ensure that prices do not fall under monopoly control and rise. ‘Consumers along the east coast of Africa typically pay between USD200 and USD300 a month for internet access,’ the IFC said. ‘As a result of this project, prices for international connectivity will drop by two-thirds at the outset and the number of subscribers will triple.’ Construction is to start within weeks and the cable is scheduled to be in operation by early 2009.