Undersea cable project heads Botswana’s way

By John Churu, Gaborone, Botswana

West Africa Cable System (WACS), an undersea cable system project that was being undertaken by Botswana and other African countries along the western coast of Africa, is now complete. This was confirmed by Amangwe Madisakwana, a spokesperson in the Ministry for Transport and Communication, to the media.

“The undersea cable system will provide high speed and reliable connectivity in the 15 African countries that are part of WACS, pushing them to the level of the developed countries of the north,” Madisakwana said. “The economies of today are largely driven by internet and other ICT connections, which are enablers of faster global connectivity.”

Madisakwana said the project, which is set to be activated in May 2012, will lead to faster connectivity and the fall in tariff rates that telecommunication companies are charging their subscribers.

Through this project, Botswana is to acquire high-speed, affordable and reliable communication link to the outside world, which is, unlike before, where it had to rely on expensive and low-capacity satellite systems and an equally expensive SAT-3 system.

The Ministry official said currently, the Ministry and other stakeholders are working hard but the hurdle has been poor international connectivity, which has led to Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) being setup in other neighbouring countries, bypassing Botswana.

“Through this project trade in services for all the sectors of the economy will become a reality because of the ideal connections that the country will be getting,” he added.

“Foreign Direct Investment will also be much easier to attract because business people want high-speed, affordable and reliable communications service that Botswana would now have,” he said.

The cable system runs alongside the west coast of Africa from South- Africa (Cape Town) to Portugal and United Kingdom with intermediate landings along the west coast of Africa. Madisakwana said once the project connects Botswana via Namibia with Europe and the rest of the world in the west. The WACS project compliments another undersea cable system known as East Africa Submarine System, (EASSY), which will connect Botswana with Asia and the East.

WACS was constructed at a cost of U$600 million, Botswana having invested a total of U$75 million, which has been co-invested with Namibia on a 50/50 basis. As such, the Government of Botswana and that of Namibia contributed P37.5 million each towards the project.

Madisakwana said WACS will provide a cost effective, high-speed and reliable system alternative to satellite connection which Botswana currently relies on. “The state-of-the-art submarine fibre system will allow for low cost communications services, which will result in increased Internet penetration in Botswana,” he said.

The bandwidth obtained from the WACS project will be enough to allow for high-speed or broadband services in the country.

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