The World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA) has approved the disbursement of USD100 million to help Niger accelerate digital transformation projects, reports Ecofinagency.com. The funding – incorporating a USD50 million grant and a USD50 million loan – will support projects aimed at deploying more resilient infrastructure and innovations to improve citizens’ access to essential social services, with a particular focus on the poorest and most vulnerable regions. One aspect of the funding will contribute to the Smart Villages project, which aims to improve access to mobile telephony and broadband services in rural areas alongside the introduction of paperless financial services to underserved regions. Tim Kelly, Senior Digital Development Specialist at the World Bank, stated: ‘The [COVID-19] pandemic has revealed the urgency of accelerating the digital transformation to enable countries like Niger to keep the private sector active and save lives and jobs. By ensuring that all citizens have access to quality and affordable internet connection, that online public services are easily accessible, and that the digital economy drives growth, innovation, and job creation, this new project will help Niger harness its potential for digital development.’
According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, at the end of March 2020 Niger ranked 45th out of 57 African countries in terms of mobile service population penetration with a take-up rate of less than 55%, while the country placed 42nd in fixed broadband internet household penetration (with a figure of roughly 0.7%).