ICT

FG, World Bank begin talks on 90,000km fibre-optic cable project

Just a few weeks after the Federal Government approved a special purpose vehicle to support the delivery of an additional 90,000 km of fibre optic cable, it has begun talks with the World Bank.
The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Bosun Tijani, disclosed this on Tuesday while announcing the kickoff of Nigeria Week in Washington, United States.
The project aims to increase Nigeria’s fibre optic cable capacity from 35,000 km to 125,000 km, making it Africa’s third-longest terrestrial fibre optic backbone behind South Africa and Egypt.
Tijani, who co-founded CcHUB, Nigeria’s first tech hub, in 2010, continues to advocate that broadband must be treated as a matter of urgency for Nigeria to advance in the digital economy.
The minister has been actively engaged with various stakeholders over the past six months to advance this initiative.
“A great kickoff for Nigeria Week today at the World Bank headquarters in Washington, DC.
“Excellent discussions with the World Bank Global Digital Development team on our digital economy agenda, particularly our plans to build out a 90,000 km fibre optic network,” the minister stated on X (formerly Twitter).
Before the minister traveled to Washington for Nigerian Week, he engaged with the representatives of the World Bank in a virtual meeting last week to discuss priority areas on digital trade for Nigeria, preliminary findings and insights from the Digital Trade Policy Gap Analysis.
Beyond aiming for improved broadband penetration in the country, which is still less than 50 per cent, the minister has also developed an artificial intelligence roadmap after assembling about 120 researchers last month.
On Monday, Tijani reassured, “I am consistent in my belief that building our connectivity infrastructure backbone is a fundamental piece of the digital economy we are building. That’s why I am particularly grateful for the ever-increasing support from partners for our work in deploying fibre optic connectivity across the country.”
In May, when the Federal Government assigned SPV for the project, Tijani noted the SPV would be modeled in governance and operations similar to some of the best public-private partnership setups in Nigeria.
The minister stated, “Building on our existing work with the Broadband Alliance, this increased connectivity will help plug the current non-consumption gap by connecting over 200,000 educational, healthcare and social institutions across Nigeria, ensuring that a larger section of our society can be included in the benefits of internet connectivity.”
Nigeria’s broadband target is to achieve a penetration rate of 70 per cent and a population coverage of 90 per cent by 2025, as outlined in the National Broadband Plan 2020–2025.
However, the country has faced significant challenges in meeting this target, including a deficit of fibre infrastructure, high rates charged by state governments for Right of Way (RoW) licenses, security challenges, limited access to foreign exchange, and multiple taxation
The World Bank estimated $6bn in annual investments to bridge Africa’s digital divide and ensure widespread access to digital technologies.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Communications Commission has secured right-of-way fee waivers in six states, a move expected to significantly boost the telecommunications industry.
The telecom regulator said that there were ongoing discussions with several states to secure additional waivers for right-of-way fees.

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