14 March 2019

Zimbabwe: ED Lays Us$23,6m Internet Backbone

President Mnangagwa yesterday commissioned the US$23,6 million National Backbone Fibre Link in Beitbridge set to boost the country' Information Communication Technology capacity and status as a regional communications hub.

The link connects Beitbridge with Bulawayo, Harare, Masvingo and the rest of the country using underground cables.

It will reduce TelOne operating costs by 40 percent and the benefit is expected to cascade to consumers.

Funded by the China Export and Import Bank, the fibre link was constructed by TelOne and Chinese company Huawei Technologies.

President Mnangagwa said the initiative will turn Zimbabwe into a land- linked country, shaking off the landlocked tag.

"This project is undoubtedly set to have a far-reaching impact towards the attainment of our national vision as it relates to ICT where we envisage having internet access at village level by 2030. It will enhance our country's land-linked status as it efficiently connects us with the rest of the world. By embracing technology and connectivity, we are embracing the future, and giving our people the best opportunities to thrive in the modern economy," said President Mnangagwa.

"We note with pride that the establishment of these fibre links has completed the connectivity of Zimbabwe with our neighbouring countries, specifically South Africa, Mozambique, Botswana and Zambia. The link will also provide transit services that enable SADC members connecting to the whole world through a robust fibre network."

President Mnangagwa thanked the Chinese government for availing loans for infrastructure development.

"In addition, we give special recognition to the government of China for the loan facilities which they continue to avail in support of infrastructure development in our country. The US$98 million loan facility through China Exim Bank enabled the timely completion of this project. It gives us comfort to know that we have strategic, comprehensive partners and friends who continue to stand by us in our quest for development, progress and prosperity," he said.

President Mnangagwa said the country's infrastructure had lagged behind for too long.

"My Government, under the Second Republic, is determined to connect our nation speedily and equitably.

"We have presently prioritised the building and rehabilitation of roads throughout the country. However, we are equally cognisant of the need to build infrastructure for tomorrow hence the completion of this project is a timely and significant step for a new Zimbabwe," he said.

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He said investment in ICT had transformative impact on Government's quest for growth, modernisation and industrialisation of the economy, which will further improve economic efficiency and productivity.

President Mnangagwa said investment in the fibre links would enhance employment creation and generate the much-needed foreign currency.

It will also improve Zimbabwe's outlook as an investment destination.

President Mnangagwa said the initiative reaffirmed his administration's commitment to building modern infrastructure that will give people the best opportunities to succeed, develop and thrive in a modern world.

He challenged the Ministry of ICT, Postal and Courier Services to continue taking a central role in coordinating, harnessing and integrating the various efficiencies of ICT for the benefit of the public sector.

"In the modern economy, opportunity is technology and the role of Government is to ensure all its citizens have access to this technology. In addition, the middle-income economy status we envision will be accelerated as a result of the digital socio-economic impact that cuts across financial services, health, retail, agriculture, mining, tourism and Government.

"This undertaking should therefore be understood in this context. That is, as an enabler that will transform us into an e-society through promotion of e-commerce, e-government, online trade, investment education and services," he said.

The President said in the Second Republic, it was important for all Zimbabweans to have access to vital tools of development, with internet capability facilities.

He said mere proximity to major cities should not be a prerequisite for economic success and commended traditional leaders and local government structures for their continued support for Government programmes.

"I also direct all ministries and departments to move with speed to improve the efficiency of public services through the use of ICT solutions for the convenience of our people. Let us embrace the future. Let us look forward and not backwards," he said

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