African nations agree to $1bn Indian satellite project

Published on Computing SA, by Michael Malakata, 22 November 2007.

A critical mass of countries are signing on to a plan for India to invest $1bn in the Pan-African e-Network satellite project, a joint initiative with the Africa Union aimed at developing the region’s ICT infrastructure.

The African Union last year entered into an agreement that calls for the Indian government to supply funds for the project. The Indian government will finance the project over a period of five years through a grant to the African Union. Ethiopia for example, has been given a grant of $2,13m from India for the project. 

So far, 27 African countries have signed agreements for the project, designed to connect African countries by satellite and fibre-optic network. The countries that have signed for the project include Zambia, Gambia, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Mauritius and Tanzania.

The project will include installation of Very Small Aperture Technologies (VSATs) to carry VoIP communication. The VSATs will be used for online education and telemedicine programmes expected to extend ICT infrastructure to rural areas and other underserved communities. The telemedicine network will be used to share knowledge from Indian doctors with their African counterparts through an online training programme.

“The project is significant to African countries, because it overcomes limitations that make access to remote areas in most African countries difficult, by using VSATs,” says Patrick Sinyinza, Zambia’s ambassador to Ethiopia, where the project is based.

India hopes the investment will help it to sell more telecommunications equipment to Africa, including VSATs, as well as services for telemedicine and other social applications. Indian government officials also say the country wants to make inroads into Africa’s ICT market before China steps up investments on the continent.

In order to participate in the e-network project, African countries must sign agreements with Telecommunications Consultants India, a government enterprise … (full text).

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