(Ecofin Agency) - More than 75% of the DRC's population does not have access to mobile Internet services. The government, international partners, and private companies are working to bridge this digital divide in a context marked by accelerated digital transformation.
The European Investment Bank (EIB) announced, Saturday, a warrant agreement with the wholesale telecommunications infrastructure provider Bandwidth and Cloud Services (BCS). Under the agreement, BCS will receive support to advance its project to build a new fiber optic backbone network in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The EIB's financial support will enable BCS to accelerate the construction of a 1,200 km fiber optic network that will connect 319 schools and 70 hospitals and provide broadband internet access to 2.5 million people throughout the country. As for the government, it will waive the per-kilometer fiber license fee and “provide rights of way on all public infrastructure – railroad, electricity poles, rivers, and lakes.”
“The Digital is such a powerful driver of equity, inclusion, and growth, that the EU has made it a pillar of our Global Gateway strategy. Expansion of the fiber-optic infrastructure will enable local communities, schools, and hospitals to benefit from mobile broadband, which ultimately means new opportunities for learning, business, jobs, and healthcare,” said EIB Vice-president Thomas Östros.
The agreement between the EIB and BCS was signed on the sidelines of the Kinshasa Economic Forum, which aims to strengthen links in priority areas, including mining, digital, and infrastructure, between the DRC, France, and the European Union (EU). This agreement comes on the heels of a $10 million investment announced in December 2022. In 2018, the EIB provided an $18 million loan to the BCS under a long-term partnership between the two parties.
According to the Congolese telecom regulator, ARPTC, in the third quarter of 2022, DRC had 48.4 million mobile subscribers, representing a penetration rate of 50.89 percent while the internet penetration rate was 23.76%. Despite the rapid growth in broadband demand in the DRC since 2020, the country still faces a great digital divide. Also, the government made digital technologies important tools for socioeconomic development. This context, coupled with the country’s large population, is driving investment from companies such as Meta, Liquid Intelligent Technologies, and CSquared... The country is expected to add 8 million new mobile subscribers by 2025, according to the Global System Operators Association (GSMA).
Isaac K. Kassouwi