Despite considerable developments in the information and communication technology (ICT) sector in Africa over the last ten years, the region still has the world’s lowest telephone and Internet user penetration and highest costs.
“Economic development in Eastern and Southern Africa is held back by prohibitive ICT costs and limited communications infrastructure,” said Rick Scobey, World Bank Acting Director for Regional Integration in Sub-Saharan Africa. “RCIP is helping the region to leverage the exciting developments in the sector and overcome the challenges through a combination of sound policy and regulatory frameworks, competitive market structures, and catalytic investments into public-private partnerships to accelerate roll-out of infrastructure networks.”
“Ultimately, RCIP will make affordable Internet and voice communications services more widely available, and in turn create new opportunities for employment, regional trade, social participation, and government efficiency. The recently launched submarine cable projects, together with such national backbone networks are already driving down substantially the costs of broadband connectivity in Africa,” said Mohsen Khalil, World Bank Group Director for Global Information and Communication Technologies.
"This project is a very exciting development for Malawi. The country has had a lot of success in the development of basic voice services, but our international call costs and broadband internet are currently very expensive compared to the rest of the world, and beyond the reach of most people. This project will link Malawi to the world by fiber-optic cable, and reduce the cost of international connectivity - which will in turn reduce the cost of international telephony and broadband internet service," said Timothy Gilbo, World Bank Country Manager for Malawi.
In Mozambique, the project leverages the sector liberalization reforms implemented by the government and will further contribute to the competitiveness of the sector to improve affordability, access, and use of networks. It will support the licensing of new operators, the establishment of rural access points throughout the country, and purchase capacity for universities and government institutions. The project will also set the basis for the development of eGovernment applications that will enable the provision of public services to citizens through electronic platforms.
“We are already seeing exciting developments in Malawi, which is working to become connected to the fiber optic cable which runs along the East African coast, and in Mozambique, where we have seen an explosion in mobile phone availability across the country,” said Peter Nicholas, World Bank Acting Country Director for Angola, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe. “RCIP will leverage these developments and help Malawi, Mozambique and other countries in the region to catch up with the rest of the world in terms of telecommunications infrastructure and services.”
In Tanzania, the project will strengthen the policy and regulatory environment and promote sector reform in order to maximize the benefits of access to international bandwidth. Some components will specifically target priority groups such as the private sector by enabling a national business portal for all business registration information and a telemedicine system for Muhimbili National Hospital. In addition, the project will scale up the national vital registration system, enhance accessibility of land records through websites and mobile phone text messages, and develop an eProcurement pilot for the Medical Stores Department.
“In Tanzania, RCIP will support the implementation of the Government's National ICT Infrastructure Development Program, which aspires to provide ICT connectivity to Tanzanians at all levels,” said John Murray McIntire, World Bank Country Director for Tanzania, Uganda, and Burundi. “In particular, RCIP Tanzania will support last mile initiatives for rural access, the Government Communications Network (GovNet), eGovernment, and capacity building.”
RCIP 3 is a further milestone in the World Bank Group’s commitment to the goals of the Connect Africa Summit, which was held in November 2007 in Rwanda. As a result of the Summit, the World Bank Group and the African Development Bank have partnered to help Africa achieve the Summit goals by mobilizing funds to invest in infrastructure and applications, advising on the policy and regulation of the ICT sector across the continent, and helping with the design and implementation of national e-strategies.
The first phase of RCIP was approved by the Board of the World Bank in March 2007, providing assistance to Burundi, Kenya, and Madagascar, with a combined IDA volume of around US$164.5 million. The second phase, a US$24 million IDA grant for Rwanda, was approved in September 2008. RCIP complements regional undersea cable initiatives such as the Eastern Africa Submarine Cable System (EASSy) developed by telecommunications operators with support from IFC and other development partners.