Huawei partners with Africa Telecommunications Union to ramp up fiber connectivity

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Huawei technologies today announced a partnership with the Africa Telecommunications Union to raise the tempo of transferring services to the digital sphere over the next eight years. Kenya was among the member countries attending the AfricaCom 2022 conference in Cape Town South Africa where the ICT Ministers and their representatives signed a joint communique agreeing to institute measurable initiatives in the development of their digital economies. The relationship is expected to contribute to the overall investment in equipment, human resources and process necessary to make a successful digital transition.

Reducing the connectivity gap is a top priority area, focusing on the speed of infrastructure set up despite the seemingly daunting financial resources required for the venture. The meeting heard that for the African countries to fully transition to digital economies by the year 2030, they will have to ramp up their investments in physical infrastructure and human capacity training to the tune of USD 100 billion (Kshs. 10 trillion).

Leo Chen, Huawei President of Sub-Saharan Africa said that nearly 80% of all required investments are directly related to the need to roll out and maintain broadband networks. However, connecting the unconnected is about more than just infrastructure: about 20% of required investments consists in building the user skills and local content foundations, and another 2-4% should be allocated to setting up the appropriate regulatory framework.

“It comprises three major elements of digital transformation: digital infrastructure, digital services and digital skills that if done correctly will link the unconnected people to government services and businesses, fully unleash their productivity, and develop the digital economy,” explained Leo Chen, noting that Kenya or instance plans to lay an additional 100,000 km of fiber optic cable over the next ten years.  

Echoing his comments, John Omo the General Secretary of the ATU noted that digital transformation remains a key driver of inclusive economic growth, job creation, the improvement of public service delivery, and the optimisation of business services in Africa.

“Africa needs funding for digital innovation to spill over into all segments of business and society if we are to strengthen our digital economy. This is because the infrastructure is expensive, with 1 kilometer of fiber optic cable costing about USD 30,000 (Kshs 3 million). For Africa to add just 500,000 kilometers of fiber connectivity, we need USD 15 billion (Kshs 1.5 trillion). No one, in the public or private sector, has the capacity to do this alone. Through the power of investment and regulation, together we can craft a framework that will give effect to the growth and development we want to see,” he said, pointing out that while financial resources required to successfully manage the transition looked insurmountable, there is a renewed sense of hope that the ambition remains achievable.

The festival themed ‘Rise Stronger with Digital Economy: New Paths towards a Resilient Recovery and Growth’, set out recommendations for African countries to accelerate the digital transformation of their economies, leading with fully providing government services online.

It is estimated that a total of 1.1 million kilometers of fiber internet cable has been laid across Africa half of this is deployed by private Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) while 40% or a staggering 450,000 kilometers, is publicly-owned. This includes government networks, state-owned enterprises (SOEs), and utilities. This publicly-owned fiber cable is only partially used to deliver services to citizens.

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