Oct 10, 2009 The World Bank, in partnership with the African Development Bank, has announced that it is endorsing a US$215-million, 10-year programme to build a Central African backbone. Three countriesCameroon, Chad, and the Central African Republicare participating in the initial US$26.2-million phase of the programme, which will complete a fibre-optic backbone connecting the capital cities of Yaounde (Cameroon), N'djamena (Chad), and Bangui (Central African Republic) together and to submarine cables landing at Douala (Cameroon). A further eight countries are also eligible to participate in the programme: Congo-Brazzaville, Equatorial Guinea, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRCongo), Gabon, Niger, Nigeria, São Tomé and Principe, and Sudan. For the time being, Nigeria, Sudan, Niger, and Cameroon are building national fibre-optic backbones, and the DRCongo is building a route from Kinshasa (the capital) to the coastal town of Moanda. The other countries have developed plans to build national backbones. The Central Africa Backbone (CAB) Program will support the 11 countries of the Central African region in developing telecommunications transmission backbone infrastructure to increase the availability of broadband internet services and reduce end-user prices, the World Bank says in a press release. The CAB Program will also help countries harmonise the laws and regulations that govern the information and communication technologies (ICT) sector to increase private-sector investment and improve competition. "Ultimately, our goal is to develop regional and national broadband backbones and significantly reduce the cost of ICT services in Central Africa," said Mohsen Khalil, director of Global Information and Communications Technologies at the World Bank Group. The CAB Program is being supported through a partnership between the World Bank Group and the African Development Bank (AfDB). The programme also aims to leverage an additional US$98 million from the private sector. In conjunction with the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa, the African Union Commission will play an important role in facilitating inter-governmental co-operation and policy harmonisation. The International Finance Corporation (IFC) will also assist governments in structuring public-private partnerships under the programme. The World Bank Group and AfDB partnership has already launched three major regional connectivity programmes, with a fourth in the pipeline. * Regional Communications Infrastructure Program (RCIP): The World Bank is providing US$424 million in financing for the RCIP to support regional connectivity and transparency in government through the use of ICT. The programme is available to all countries in East and Southern Africa and can be tailored to each country's specific needs and priorities. The first phase of RCIP included Kenya, Madagascar, and Burundi and was approved by the board of the World Bank in 2007. The second phase was for Rwanda and was approved in 2008. The third phase includes Tanzania, Mozambique, and Malawi and was approved by the board of the World Bank in June 2009. * East African Submarine Cable System (EASSy): The World Bank Group, the AfDB, and other development finance institutions (DFIs) are investing in the EASSy submarine cable. EASSy is a 10,000-kilometre submarine fibre-optic cable running along the east coast of Africa from Sudan to South Africa. It is currently being deployed and is due to enter service in June 2010. It will directly connect eight of the countries along the route and indirectly connect all of the others in the region to the international communications infrastructure. The project was developed by a consortium of 26 telecommunications operators, mostly from Eastern and Southern Africa, with the support of five DFIs: the IFC, the AfDB, the European Investment Bank, the Agence Française de Développement, and the KfW. The total cost of the project is US$235 million, with around US$70 million coming as debt financing from the DFIs. Of this, the IFC contributed US$32.7 million and the AfDB contributed US$14.5 million. * West African Power Pool (WAPP): Limited inter-country connectivity in the Economic Community of West African States region results in inefficient, costly routing of calls between neighbouring countries by satellite. Policymakers in the region have identified the emerging regional electricity transmission infrastructure as a way of improving high-bandwidth regional communications capacity. These electricity networks have built in fibre-optic cables whose spare capacity can be utilised to provide backbone services to communications providers on a wholesale basis. The World Bank and the AfDB have been closely involved in developing the regional electricity transmission infrastructure through the WAPP. This transmission infrastructure will also be able to carry telecommunications traffic. In 2008, a stakeholder workshop in Benin endorsed the opportunity and committed to removing the bottlenecks associated with creating a regional backhaul network.