The World Bank approved a financing package of US$164.5 million in grants and credits for Kenya, Burundi and Madagascar to establish high-speed connectivity to make the countries more competitive…

As East and Southern Africa is the only region in the world that is not connected to the global broadband infrastructure, the region has struggled with the prohibitive costs of satellite phone and Internet connection, which hampers business, university students, and governments.

For instance, one Kenyan call-center entrepreneur told the World Bank that to put 25 agents on the phone, it will cost close to US$17,000 a month, while elsewhere, it will only cost US$600–900 a month.

The new program will eventually bring affordable high-speed connectivity to as many as 25 countries. In this first phase, the $164.5 million will consist of credits to Kenya and Madagascar, and a grant of $20.1 million to Burundi.

“Improving broadband connectivity will add tremendous public value for Africa. Low-cost, high-quality communications is essential for economic competitiveness,” said Paul Wolfowitz, president of the World Bank Group. “Africa is becoming more plugged in — this is very encouraging for the continent. Our partner countries are sending a strong signal to the world that they are open for business and ready to leap into the information age.”

The financing of land networks will be a catalyst to attract and maximize private-sector investment in telecommunications infrastructure, as well as complement regional undersea cable initiatives, such as the Eastern Africa Submarine Cable System.

By the end of the program, it is expected that all capitals and major cities in East and Southern Africa would 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.

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