Washington, April 18, 2012. In June 2011, the World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors approved financing in the amount of US$50 million for the second part of the first phase of the Central African Backbone Program (CAB APL1B). Following this approval, Chad and the Central African Republic (CAR), the two beneficiary countries, signed the financing agreements today, April 18, 2012, for this regional project aimed at increasing the geographical reach and usage of regional broadband network services and reducing their prices.
The CAB APL1B project will contribute to the deployment of fiber optic infrastructure in Chad and the Central African Republic aimed at creating a regional network connected to the submarine cables in the east and the west of the African continent. Through its components, the project will contribute to the establishment of a public-private partnership (PPP) framework to develop and operationalize the connection between Bangui and Bemal in the CAR and Doba and Goré along Chad’s southern border, and Ndjamena and Adré along the border with Sudan to the east. Technical assistance is also planned to facilitate the review, improvement, and development of the beneficiary’s information laws and “cyber” legal and institutional framework, including in the areas of cyber security, cybercrimes, privacy, promotion of the beneficiary’s ICT sector, and support for the beneficiary’s national entities in charge of ICT.
The main feature of this phase is that it will extend connectivity by financing network infrastructure for establishing an open-access national and regional network based on a PPP. In other words, public funding will be used to supplement private funding when the risk profile is unattractive, with overall operations being managed by the private sector. Jerôme Bezzina, Team Lead for the Yaoundé-based project, explained that: “With respect to the structuring of the CAB international network, the two countries (Chad and CAR) will award a PPP contract to a private company through an international competitive bidding process, facilitated by the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC) and monitored by both countries, with the aim of developing and managing a fiber optic network dedicated to international traffic, ensuring its maintenance, and handling the two operating licenses.”
In terms of impact, the project is in line with the overall development strategies of the two countries. The information and communication technology (ICT) sector in Sub-Saharan Africa has directly contributed to economic growth by generating US$50 billion in investments between 1998 and 2008. The sector’s development has also stimulated other areas of the economy owing to the reduction in the cost of doing business. Gregor Binkert, World Bank Country Director for the CAR was pleased to note that: “the CAB APL 1B project will lead to a significant reduction in international bandwidth cost in Chad and CAR, which should produce positive knock-on effects; it will directly support the poverty reduction strategy by restoring economic growth, promoting investments, developing regional integration, and improving the delivery of public services.”
More specifically, the CAB APL1B project directly addresses one of the main constraints to the economic development of Chad and the Central African Republic—their landlocked geographical status. By connecting the two countries to the backbone program, the project will expand geographical reach and usage of regional broadband network services and reduce prices. In addition to the direct beneficiaries of the project (number of persons with improved and more affordable access to international communications services), the CAB APL1B project is expected to produce a tangible impact on the economies of the two countries. The experience of the other regions of Africa shows that there is a strong demand for these services once they are provided at affordable prices. Once these services become widespread, they become a platform for the provision of services, a tool facilitating access to global information resources, and a channel for the development of business ideas.
Of the overall amount of US$58 million released for the project, IDA’s contribution stands at US$50 million, with US$30 earmarked for Chad, and US$20 million for the Central African Republic. The remaining US$8 million will be provided in the form of counterpart funding from the Chadian Government.
The CAB APL1B project is also a model for integration in view of the fact that its design and implementation called for assistance from several regional organizations, such as the African Development Bank (AfDB) and CEMAC. Cameroon, the Central African Republic, and Chad decided to make joint plans for the establishment of terrestrial fiber-optic connections to the submarine broadband network following the Declaration of CEMAC Heads of State in N’Djamena on April 25, 2007. The discussions between the countries led to the joint formulation of the project for the Central African Republic and Chad and to the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding related to the connection of the fiber optic networks of Central Africa and Chad.