Fibre optic: Congo-Brazzaville releases evaluation report

By Issa Sikiti da Silva, in Kinshasa, DR Congo

The Republic of Congo late last week released an evaluation report on its fibre optic network, showing that the country has already completed 53 of the 66 projects to be implemented as part of the Central African Backbone network.

The committee overseeing the project has revealed that about 25% of the US$30 million-budget allocated to the CAB has already been spent on the completed projects. 

But like its troubled neighbour, the Democractic Republic of Congo (DRC), Congo’s fibre optic has not yet produced any concrete results on the ground, forcing people to ask questions about the high cost of undertaking a project of such magnitude.

Good and steady internet connection and digital TV – just a few spills of fibre optic –  remain a bag filled of empty dreams in Congo Brazzaville. Critics believe that the CAB project will not bring any change to the ICT sector as long as the country's telecommunication infrastructure remains depleted and outdated.

Launched in December 2011 with the assistance of the World Bank, CAB aims at providing oil-rich Congo with a fibre optic network that will facilitate the interconnection between Central African countries, and also link its cities and villages.

CAB national coordinator Luc Missidimbazi said at the time of the launch that the arrival of fibre optic would greatly increase international capacity in terms of flows and would allow companies to save significant amounts in communications costs.

But judging by the report recommendations, it would seem that CAB is being affected by funding problems, with the committee overseeing the project considering a complete review of the budget to ease the expenses for infrastructure, connectivity and digital. 

Other recommendations include the aggressive promotion of ICTs, restructuring the project and the review of management procedures, among others.

"The need to restructure the project comes from the evolution of the digital needs of the user and the analogue transition in order to not only position the project's objectives but to take account of the realities of change in the digital," Missidimbazi said.

The government of Denis Sassou Nguesso, which has invested over US$200 million in ICTs, has made the development and the restructuring of the sector one of its priorities, as it aims at diversifying the economy.

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