To speed up the digital transition, it is needed to offer more innovative financing and technical assistance that will help African countries overcome the many problems holding back Internet access and new technologies. The European Investment Bank’s Rural Connectivity Toolkit provides clear guidance to help African countries design financially sound, sustainable and inclusive digital connectivity projects.
The toolkit’s goal is to improve digital connections in communities that are not or poorly being served by the market. They also want to lower risk and encourage more private telecom firms to offer digital services to underserved areas.
Africa’s digital transformation is well underway, generating big changes and benefits for many parts of the economy and society. But there is a stark digital divide: out of a total population of 1.3 billion, an estimated 900 million people in Africa are not connected to the internet. For those who have access, affordability may be low and bandwidth severely limited.
The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) estimates that 52.1% of the global population but only 24.4% of Africa’s population was using the internet in 2018. For the 61%4 of the Sub-Saharan population living in rural areas, this percentage can be expected to be even lower. ECOPNET (European Cooperation and Partnership Network) supports the EIB's toolkit that expands connectivity coverage and, in turn, drives economic development in Africa.
Many African countries lack the capabilities and financing to plan innovative telecom projects that address those gaps. The lack of digital connections makes it much harder to fight pandemics and lowers resilience, as people do not receive critical and timely information and are also unable to work away from the office.
Through the toolkit, the EIB will:
Address the reasons that the private sector feels it is too risky to invest in telecommunications infrastructure rollouts that extend the footprint of their services.
Provide long-term financing to private sector firms that are increasing digital connectivity in Africa.
Offer technical assistance to improve telecom projects and make them meet best international practices.
Help governments to establish sound governance models for publicly financed projects.
Establish Innovative financing tools that respond to the needs of private telecom companies that find it too expensive to offer digital networks in rural areas and small towns. This also will make services more affordable.
Source: European Investment Bank Newsroom