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PRESS RELEASEJune 27, 2024

World Bank to Accelerate Digital Inclusion for 180 Million People Across Eastern and Southern Africa

WASHINGTON, June 27, 2024 – A new program that will benefit over 180 million people by 2032 is poised to significantly increase access to the internet and the inclusive use of digitally enabled services and transform the digital landscape in Eastern and Southern Africa.

Digitalization is one of the most potent tools available today to eradicate poverty on a livable planet. Yet, the Eastern and Southern Africa region has the slowest pace of digitalization globally, with only 64 percent of the population covered by high-speed internet, and just 24 percent of the population using the internet as of 2023. To accelerate digitalization, the region needs more integrated digital markets as digitalization thrives on economies of scale and network effects, often expanding across markets and borders.

The Inclusive Digitalization in Eastern and Southern Africa (IDEA) Program is a $2.48 billion financing envelope—financed through the International Development Association* (IDA) and International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD)— that aims to bring together 15 countries and Regional Economic Communities and address common challenges such as limited internet coverage due to infrastructure gaps, low usage due to high cost of data and devices, limited digital skills, and lack of digital identification needed for online transactions.  

IDEA is a holistic program that will unleash opportunities for hundreds of millions of Africans to actively participate in and contribute to the advancement of the region’s digital economies. This effort underscores the critical importance of public and private sector partnerships in driving sustainable economic growth,” said Victoria Kwakwa, Vice President for the World Bank’s Eastern and Southern Africa region.

IDEA will be implemented in phases over an eight-year period and initially target countries that have less than 50 percent high-speed internet access. Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and Malawi will participate in the first phase, providing new and enhanced broadband internet access to over 50 million people combined. Additional countries and regional bodies are expected to join in the subsequent phases based on their eligibility and readiness. The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) will lead the regional coordination and facilitate the knowledge exchange of experiences and lessons across participating countries.

“The IDEA program will support participating countries and COMESA Member States in enhancing digital infrastructure and skills to foster productive use of digitalization towards economic growth and inclusive societies, thus paving the way towards increased digital services trade and a vibrant regional digital market. Given the rapidly evolving and cross-cutting nature of the sector, COMESA aims to put emphasis on capturing learnings, and results, and sharing practical tools across the region to help countries fully reap the benefits of the digital economy,” said H.E Chileshe Mpundu Kapwepwe, Secretary General of COMESA.

IDEA is structured around three technical pillars focusing on expanding broadband and securing data hosting so people can access low-cost, reliable and quality internet; deploying interoperable digital public infrastructure and digital safeguards needed to promote trusted and safe use of digital technologies and digitally enabled services; and advancing digitally enabled applications, services and overall capabilities, which can promote productive use of digital technologies and potentially have a high impact on economic and social activities.  The program specifically seeks to leverage private sector investment and take advantage of regional economies of scale, encourage the promotion of economic opportunities for women and foster gender equality in the digital landscape, as well as maximize climate co-benefits given the region’s exposure to climate change.

A fourth pillar will focus on project management and capacity building to support implementation, knowledge generation and regional coordination. Each pillar offers a range of options, allowing countries to select activities based on their priorities, readiness, underlying enabling environment, and available resources.

IDEA will contribute to sustainable economic growth through long-term cost savings, efficiency, and productivity gains, fueled by greater digital adoption by citizens, businesses, and governments across the region.

*The World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA), established in 1960, helps the world’s low-income countries by providing grants and low to zero-interest loans for projects and programs that boost economic growth, reduce poverty, and improve people’s lives. IDA is one of the largest sources of assistance for its 75 client countries, 39 of which are in Africa. Since 1960, IDA has provided $552 billion to 115 countries. Annual commitments have averaged about $36 billion over the last three years (FY21-FY23), with about 75 percent going to Africa. Learn more online: . #IDAworks

About the World Bank Group: The World Bank Group has a bold vision: to create a world free of poverty on a livable planet. In more than 100 countries, the World Bank Group provides financing, advice, and innovative solutions that improve lives by creating jobs, strengthening economic growth, and confronting the most urgent global development challenges. The World Bank Group is one of the largest sources of funding and knowledge for developing countries. It consists of the World Bank, including the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and the International Development Association (IDA); the International Finance Corporation (IFC); the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA); and the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). For more information, please visit, and



Johanna Martinsson
Luande, Angola
Wilson Mbanino Piassa,
(+244) 222 393 389
Lilongwe, Malawi
Henry Chimbali
(+265) 888 890 047


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