An ambitious digitalisation project was launched on Friday in the Central African Republic (CAR). It will provide improved broadband access both within the CAR and with neighbouring countries to promote regional interconnectivity. The project is supported through the EU’s ‘blending’ mechanism, meaning that EU grants are used to leverage further investment. The EU has contributed €17 million to this project, leading to a total investment of €33.7 million.
The Central Africa Backbone (CAB) project aims to install terrestrial optical fibre links that interconnect the countries of Central Africa in order to provide high-speed broadband internet access. Each country of the region is implementing cross-border interconnections in order to eliminate the missing links.
In the Central African Republic, the project will finance ICT infrastructure, ICT applications and services, institutional support, capacity building and project management. This project, fully embedded in the Africa-Europe Alliance, will contribute to the overall development of the national economy through use of new technologies. It will promote the recovery of the private sector, by reducing transaction costs, creating jobs especially for young people, and increasing government revenues.
The project brings together various partners such as the African Development Bank and the World Bank. The European Union agreed to finance the component in the CAR together with the African Development Bank under the ‘blending’ instrument with a contribution of 17M€ from the 11th European Development Fund. ‘Blending’ means that the EU covers part of the cost through a grant, with public and private investors stepping in to finance the rest through loans, hence reducing the overall debt burden.
The EU has successfully used this form of financing for over ten years. The Central Africa Backbone (CAB) project is a good example of the operationalization of a ‘blending’ project on the ground. Through the External Investment Plan, the EU is now scaling up its blending operations considerably, with an investment of €3 billion by 2020. Overall, the EU External Investment Plan is using €4.5 billion in public funds to secure €44 billion by 2020 in public and private investment for development in countries neighbouring the EU and in Africa.
The External Investment Plan is a key part of the Africa-Europe Alliance, launched by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in September 2018. The Alliance aims to boost investment to create up to 10 million jobs in Africa in the next 5 years and promote sustainable development.
To find out more about the EU’s cooperation with the Central African Republic, click here.
To find out more about the Africa-Europe Alliance, see here.