East and Southern Africa is the only region in the world that is not connected to the global broadband infrastructure. A crucial step in removing this obstacle occurred in Washington DC on March 29 2007 when the World Bank Board of Directors approved an International Development Association (IDA) financing package of 164.5 million (USD) for Kenya, Burundi and Madagascar. The financing package represents the first segment of the US$424 million Regional Communications Infrastructure Program (RCIP) for high-speed connectivity in East and Southern Africa.
Until now, the region has been held back by the prohibitive costs of international connectivity. At present, the region accounts for less than one percent of the world’s international bandwidth capacity and relies on satellite connectivity, with costs among the highest in the world. Because of this missing link, businesses are unable to compete in the global economy, university students suffer because they cannot access the Internet, and Government agencies cannot communicate effectively with each other and their citizens because they are not connected.
RCIP will bring affordable high-speed connectivity to as many as 25 countries in East and Southern Africa. The US$164.5 million first portion of funding consists of IDA credits amounting to US$114.4 million to Kenya, US$30 million to Madagascar, and an IDA grant in the amount of US$20.1 million to Burundi.
RCIP financing of terrestrial networks will be a catalyst to attract and maximize private sector investment in telecommunications infrastructure. By the end of the Program, it is expected that all capitals and major cities in East and Southern Africa will be linked to competitively priced high-bandwidth connectivity. This will equip Africa to trade on a level playing field, extend education beyond the classrooms, and accelerate good governance.