18 May 2006

Kenya: Govt Gives Ultimatum for Cable Project

Nairobi — Kenya has demanded an implementation date of the Sh15 billion Eastern Africa Submarine Cable System (Eassy).

The Permanent Secretary for Information and Communication, Bitange Ndemo, said "if the date is not issued next week," Kenya would instead endorse a similar but parallel project, which would connect Mombasa to Djibouti at a cost of Sh4.3 billion (US$60 million).

Bitange, who was speaking on Wednesday at the New Partnership for Africa Development (Nepad) ICT Africa conference, said Kenya was only leading the list of frustrated countries some from within the region and others from southern Africa, due to the slow process of implementing the project.

"If the parallel project can start next month, it will be completed in June next year. My take is that it must not go beyond 2008," said Bitange.

He said the Government would "not sink a single penny into the project, but would instead only provide an enabling environment."

Stumbling blocksKenya

On Wednesday, Ndemo said lack of commonality by stakeholders in the business model to use was the main stumbling block to the implementation of the Eassy project.

The World Bank, International Finance Corporation and South Africa are among countries pushing for varied business models, some of which Ndemo said were not attractive to Kenya. South Africa, for instance, is pushing a proposal to use pension funds to finance the project, which Kenya says is expensive.

Ndemo said South Africa also wanted an inter-government agency that would hold a golden share in the project, but Kenya preferred the private sector to be in control. The Eassy project is supposed to hook the region to two other undersea cables covering South, West and Northern Africa, forming a continental loop that connects Africa to the rest of the world.

The Eassy project, whose expiry date is second quarter of 2007, is supposed to drastically reduce the cost of accessing telecommunication services like making calls and accessing the Internet.

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