By Issa Sikiti da Silva, in Kinshasa, DR Congo
Dilapidated, outdated and unreliable telecommunications infrastructure in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) will be rehabilitated, rebuilt and modernised, thanks to a funding of $92-million by the World Bank.
“This is a golden lifeline and a rare opportunity for the whole ICT sector to undergo adequate reforms and transformation, create a real knowledge-based economy, and significantly reduce the price of internet which is too high,” technology analyst Jean-Albert Longange told Biztechafrica in the capital Kinshasa.
Mineral-rich DRC, Africa’s second-biggest country, is one of the world’s most challenging environments to, among others, communicate on the phone, watch digital TV and connect to the internet, as decades of under-investment, state monopoly, financial mismanagement and lack of reforms left the telecommunications infrastructure in tatters.
The funding, which was approved last week Wednesday by the board of directors, will be made available through the International Development Association (IDA) on a five-year basis, the Bretton Woods institution said.
“For the first time ever the country’s main cities will come close to one another, adequately reconnect the Congo with its neighbours, improve connectivity and therefore boost telecoms companies’ operations,” Longange said.
The World Bank said the funding will help develop the missing links in the national fibre optic network, and overcome the distance between the most densely populated economic centres of Kinshasa, Goma and Lubumbashi.
The Washington-based organisation also said that the project offered a unique opportunity to develop crucial infrastructure, and exploit the ICT’s potential of transformation in the aim of promoting growth and creating new opportunities for Congolese citizens.
World Bank DRC representative Eustache Ouayoro said linking the country’s three economic centres will help private telecommunications operators get access to shared infrastructure which they could have been unable to finance.
“These operators will then be able to offer competitive services continuously throughout the country,” he added.