Africa Gets High Speed Internet Connections with Help from the World Bank

Over the last ten years, Africa has had a huge success in introducing mobile telephony and now the World Bank has pledged to commit $2 billion dollars over the next five years to further developing African information and communication technologies: Africa’s going online! Currently less than 1 percent of Africans have access to high speed broadband connectivity. Many other developing and emerging countries have 30 percent of the population connecting to broadband services. The Connect Africa Summit meeting in Kigali, Rawanda, where the World Bank made the announcement, states the aim of the Summit is the goal of ensuring that all of Africa’s capitals and major cities have high speed Internet connections by the year 2012. The proposal for meeting this aim is that the Summit should obtain firm commitments from private sector investors, major financial institutions such as the World Bank and its aid arm the International Finance Corporation (IFC), and international governments to join in a partnership to fund this important endeavor. Internet connectivity through ICT in all capitals and major cities in Africa will offer a means to work toward overcoming African poverty, to improving public services like health care, and permitting regional integration across culturally isolated communities, as stated by Robert B. Zoellick, World Bank Group President. Zoellick also said, “This access gap must be addressed before Africa can be connected to the globalized economy and [productively] use ICT….” Mobile telephony technology in Africa received investments of more than $25 billion over the past decade. The investments came mostly from the private sector rather than from governments or non-government organizations (NGOs). Because ICT markets were opened in Sub-Sahara Africa, the introduction of mobile telephony was tremendously successful. The Connect Africa Summit aims for Internet high speed connectivity in Africa to be the next success story. The necessary infrastructure required for Internet connectivity has received initial funding through the recently approved $424 million Regional Communications Infrastructure Program (RCIP). These funds will go to up to 25 East and Southern African countries as they build partnerships with private telecom operations companies and join in private sector partnerships to invest in building the infrastructure needed for connectivity. Also the World Bank financing will contribute to governments and private business concerns developing investment partnerships to provide for the shortfall in whatever is needed to further the establishing of high speed Internet connectivity in rural areas and small towns, which will especially need focused efforts to achieve connectivity. The World Bank, IFC and the African Development Bank are working together to bring online reality to Africa, and infoDev, an enterprise housed in the World Bank, is continuing to solve the problem of building knowledge products for Africa. African governments will strengthen regulations so as to effectively manage forthcoming ICT market competition. “World Bank Group Doubles Commitment to ICT in Africa: US$2 Billion in 5 Years,” The World Bank.