Internet users in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are hoping that their fortunes will change in the near future after the completion of a 4 000 km optic fiber project currently being undertaken by Liquid Intelligent Technologies (LIT).

LIT, a subsidiary of the Zimbabwean group Econet Wireless, is owned by tycoon Strive Masiyiwa. The company has announced last week that it has finalised the construcrion of a 2 300 km optic fiber network in the west of the country.

The second line will reportedly link the south-central part to the east. "Just imagine what the two projects will bring us in terms of fees and speed," Sylvie Monga, a university student, said. “Internet is very expensive in this country, yet it’s unstable and pathetic,” Jonathan Zola, a cyber café manager, told BizTech Africa this week.

As frustration mounts over the high internet charges and a miserable, slow and stammering connection, consumers and businesses have been slamming telephone mobile networks for what they describe as “broad daylight robbery”.

“The days of 1GB lasting for 24 hours are long gone. Now it only takes about half and an hour. Mobile networks operating in the DRC are robbing us and making huge profits. All of this in collusion with the government,” Rose Matumona, an Orange DRC customer, said.

However, the Zimbabwe-based telecommunication’s optic fiber project seems to be generating optimism and hope in the streets of the vast, mineral-rich Central African nation, which is grappling not only with poor communication and internet connectivity, but also with deteriorating and outdated road and transport infrastructure.

“I keep the faith because they are privately-funded projects, which give us hope that they’ll be completed and improve our lives. This government is useless because it’s dysfunctional and corrupt. They never undertake anything and finish it,” businessman Jordan Shabani alleged.

The DRC, which has only 4 000 km of network while its needs hover 50 000 km, is one of the African continent’s most corrupt nations. Activists often complain that money meant for social development and poverty eradication is dilapidated and taken abroad, in foreign bank accounts, without anyone lifting a finger.

Nearly 10 years ago, millions of dollars were put aside for the deployment of optic fiber but the project never materialised, and nobody seems to know where the money went. A former prime minister and a former telecommunications minister have lately traded accusations over the failed project, which was supposed to link the whole country from the Atlantic coastal town of Muanda, via the capital Kinshasa. Both have denied having any responsibility for the failure of the project.

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