I wasn’t able to make it to the opening day of the ITU summit in Geneva, but I am keeping an eye on the various press releases sent so far before visiting the event tomorrow.
The main one attracting my attention is the announcement by the World Bank of its endorsement of the $215 million, ten-year Central African Backbone Program (CAB Program). According to the release, “this program will support the countries of the Central African region in developing their high-speed telecommunications backbone infrastructure to increase the availability of high-speed Internet and reduce end-user prices. The CAB Program will also help countries harmonize the laws and regulations that govern the ICT sector to increase private sector investment and improve competition.” The programme is supported in its initial phase by 3 Central African countries (Cameroon, Chad and Central African Republic - CAR) and will be followed by another eight countries - the Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Niger, Nigeria, São Tomé and Principe, and Sudan.
Central Africa includes some of Africa’s least developed telecoms markets. The landlocked countries in particular are experiencing difficulties in benefiting from the various submarine cable projects being launched, connecting West and East Africa to the rest of the world. Hopefully the CAB programme will support Central African telecoms markets and help them develop broadband services, a key factor in the region’s economic development.
This will continue to be a major topic of discussion at the African events in the Com World Series, with AfricaCom coming up in Cape Town next month, and the sub-regional events in 2010: East Africa Com in Kenya in April, West & Central Africa Com in Senegal in June, and the new Nigeria Com in Lagos in September.