More EASSy financing secured; construction to begin next month

29 Nov 2007 reports that the construction of the 9,900km East Africa Submarine Cable System (EASSy) undersea fibre-optic cable, connecting 21 countries in eastern, southern, and central African countries to west Africa and Europe, is to begin next month, following an announcement this week that the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and others have come up with USD70.7 million in financing for the project.

‘The project will transform the African telecommunication landscape and have a direct positive impact on business in East Africa,’ said Lars Thunell, Chief Executive at the World Bank’s private sector arm. Internet coverage in Africa only stretches to around 4% of the population, and users pay high fees for slow service which is subject to constant interruption due to the continent’s notoriously erratic electricity supply and satellite connections. Upon completion EASSy is expected to provide internet access to 250 million people, or one in four Africans, and will cut the cost dramatically.

The cable will run along the floor of the western Indian Ocean and connect South Africa, Mozambique, Madagascar, Tanzania, Kenya, Somalia, Djibouti and Sudan. At its southern end, it will join cables serving West Africa and Europe. Thirteen adjoining countries will be linked to the system as additional networks are completed through a broader World Bank initiative. These countries are Botswana, Burundi, the Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Chad, Ethiopia, Lesotho, Malawi, Rwanda, Swaziland, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Most of the money for the USD235 million project is coming from 25 private telecoms operators that make up the 29-company EASSy consortium, the others being government bodies. Of the private firms, 21 are African and will be the cable’s main users. French firm Alcatel-Lucent Submarine Networks is to lay the cable. Firms from the UK, India, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and the US are also taking part in the venture.