Raila Odinga

By Semaj Itosno, Nairobi, Kenya

Kenya is on course to reap from an enhanced countrywide Internet infrastructure.

The Kenya government has awarded Huawei, a Chinese telecommunication firm, a tender to build a Sh6 billion (USD71 million) national fibre optic infrastructure and e-government projects expected to beginning August 2012.

The loan is earmarked for building national fibre-optic infrastructure and e-government projects.

Already, Treasury Permanent Secretary Joseph Kinyua signed the provisional agreement for the tender with Chinese vice-minister for commerce Chen Jian at the beginning of this month in Nairobi.

Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga is scheduled fly to China next week to seal sign the loan agreement with the China Exim Bank.

The fibre-optic networks will link Nairobi with eight major towns (formerly provincial headquarters) and 36 administrative district centres through local area networks connected to the national backbone.

It is expected that the project will provide a reliable communication network for the government to interact with citizens.

In return this will improve quality of the public service and improve decision-making.

According to Kenya’s Information permanent secretary Bitange Ndemo, the Chinese firm will be the sole contractor of the multibillion-shilling project for that was the condition set before China would offer the loan.

While the restriction of the project to Huawei is unlikely to sit well especially with western firms like Alcatel Lucent, Nokia Siemens and Erickson, it is common in Chinese-funded projects.

The tender confirms that China is finally taking a grip on Kenya through development projects.

In August 2010, Safaricom signed a three-year contract with Huawei for supply of its core network requirements, and roll out the 4G network at a cost of Sh12 billion ($144.5 million).

Another Chinese firm, ZTE, clinched the tender for the roll-out of Telkom’s Kenya 3G network at a cost of Sh4 billion (USD48.1million).

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