Second stage of Uganda’s ‘white elephant’ backbone completed

10 Oct 2011

Chinese vendor Huawei has completed the second stage of Uganda’s UGX201 billion (USD71.2 million) fibre-optic backbone two years after the expected completion date of the entire project, having installed 1,380km of cable linking Uganda to South Sudan and Kenya. The third and final stage of the rollout is due to begin in January next year and will connect the Ugandan capital, Kampala to Mombasa on Kenya’s coast.

The national fibre-optic project was launched in 2006, and was scheduled to be completed by January 2009 but quickly ran into financial and technical problems. According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, the project, which was funded by the Export and Import Bank of China (EXIM), did not feature a tender and the government selected Huawei based on the EXIM’s recommendation. The hardware installed by Huawei during the first stage – which connected government department and agencies− was an ‘inferior’ cable type and is expected to be insufficient for the country’s needs. Worse still, the construction itself may have been flawed: the ICT ministry believes that the cable was deployed less than 15m from the centre of the road, and less than 1.5m below the surface, leaving the hardware vulnerable to accidental damage, vandalism and theft. It is feared that constant repairs will only rack up further costs, further debt, and prevent Uganda from making the most of its telecoms resources.

Uganda, Huawei Technologies