WASHINGTON, May 30, 2013 - The World Bank's Board of Executive Directors today approved US$30 million each in IDA* credits to support the Government of Mauritania and Government of Togo’s efforts to strengthen telecommunications connectivity through expansion of fiber-optic broadband networks and introduction of legal and regulatory reforms to promote robust private sector competition. The investments are expected to expand access, improve quality and reliability of voice and Internet communications, serve as the backbone for greater private sector investment in ICT services and dramatically drive down costs, as has been the experience in other African countries.
“We want to harness Africa’s ongoing ICT revolution to address the development challenges confronting West African states,” said Colin Bruce, World Bank Director for Regional Integration. “High capacity, reliable, regional broadband networks can enable communications, commerce and trade in services across borders. It is the cornerstone of developing a modern regional economic zone in West Africa.””
The project is part of the second phase of a US$300 million West Africa Regional Communications Infrastructure Program (WARCIP) that seeks to bridge connectivity gaps between 16 West African countries and with the rest of the world. WARCIP harnesses the resources and dynamism of the private sector through innovative public-private partnerships to enable rapid roll out of infrastructure and expansion of telecoms services. The program takes a regional approach, recognizing that access to high quality connectivity through neighboring countries at competitive rates is essential for the competitiveness and reliability of national networks. A regional approach is especially critical for West Africa’s landlocked countries which are dependent on coastal neighbors for access to global broadband networks and small states which may not be able to attract sufficient investment in isolation.
Mauritania is mostly a desert country, and its population of 3.5 million is dispersed on an estimated surface area of 1,030,700 square kilometers. Togo is one of the smallest countries in West Africa, and its population of 6.5 million is spread over 56,600 square kilometers. Both countries need to improve their connection to the information superhighway and capitalize on the transformative power of ICT to diversify their economies, boost growth rates and accelerate efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.
“This is an exciting time for ICT-led initiatives in West Africa,” said Boutheina Guermazi and Michel Rogy, Project Co-Task Team Leaders for Togo and Mauritania respectively. “We are eager to help move this important project forward, working closely with both Governments for effective implementation to ensure that the benefits of ICT connectivity trickle down to end users in both countries and more generally across the subregion."
* The World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA), established in 1960, helps the world’s poorest countries by providing loans (called “credits”) and grants for projects and programs that boost economic growth, reduce poverty, and improve poor people’s lives. IDA is one of the largest sources of assistance for the world’s 82 poorest countries, 40 of which are in Africa. Resources from IDA bring positive change for 2.5 billion people living on less than $2 a day. Since 1960, IDA has supported development work in 108 countries. Annual commitments have increased steadily and averaged about $15 billion over the last three years, with about 50 percent of commitments going to Africa.