The World Bank has approved a new project called the Central African Backbone (CAB), which aims to increase the geographical reach and usage of regional broadband network services in up to eleven central African countries, whilst reducing access prices. The initial phase of the CAB will take place in Cameroon, the Central African Republic and Chad, where the connectivity component of the project will leverage the existing fibre-optic network laid along the Chad-Cameroon oil pipeline to form the core CAB network and support the deployment of interconnected networks to establish a regional cable infrastructure. Aside from the connectivity aims of the CAB, other components include development of e-government, strengthening of regulatory frameworks and assistance in restructuring government telecoms institutions with the aim of liberalising markets.
The World Bank said in a statement that central African countries currently offer the worst quality and most expensive internet service in the continent. Eight additional countries are eligible to take part in the CAB, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, The Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Niger, Nigeria, Sao Tome & Principe and Sudan. The project, which is being supported by a partnership between the World Bank and the African Development Bank, is expected to achieve its initial aims in Cameroon, the Central African Republic and Chad by 2016, but as its scope widens it is expected to run for ten years, with total investment reaching around USD215 million. The CAB aims to raise USD98 million from the private sector, with help from the International Finance Corporation. The initial USD26.2 million lending approved by the World Bank is split as follows: Cameroon USD9.9 million, Central African Republic USD7.3 million, Chad USD9 million.