The second meeting of the Ministers of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) and Digital Economy of the ECOWAS member countries interested in the Amilcar Cabral Submarine telecommunications cable development project has produced a signed memorandum of understanding by the members for the development of the project.
The meeting which took place on Wednesday 5 April 2023 featured 6 Ministers of the 6 member states as well as the ECOWAS commission as a witness which was represented by Sédiko Douka, Commissioner for Infrastructure, Energy, and Digitalisation.
The ECOWAS beneficiary countries include Cabo Verde, The Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, and this MOU which was signed with the ECOWAS commission, means the sis states agree to prepare and develop the Amilar Cabral submarine telecommunications cable project. The six members also reiterate their commitment to participate in the process of evaluating the technical, economic, financial, social, and environmental feasibility of the project which will help assess its viability and profitability as well as provide the necessary resources needed for implementation.
The six-member state also stated its decision to collectively support the efforts of the ECOWAS commission to carry out and complete a feasibility study on the proposed project, while providing the necessary information and data required by the consultation team and also encouraging public institutions and telecom network operators in their territories to do the same. After the feasibility study is completed, the six-member states will also cooperate and participate in the efforts to determine and plan the next moves needed for the implementation of the project, which includes sourcing funds from international financial institutions, involvement of private sector, and coordinating with the landing parties of the submarine cable as well as other landing parties established in their territories.
Meanwhile, the ECOWAS commission will coordinate the implementation of the project by interacting with stakeholders (beneficiaries, countries, donors, and others). Which will ensure effective supervision and monitoring of the project, while the member states agree to establish a Ministerial Steering Committee (MSC) and a Committee of Experts (CE). The committee will function as the decision-making and strategic management body of the project. The committee will be made up of member states’ ministers in charge of Telecommunications/ICT/Digitalisation and the ECOWAS commissioner for Infrastructure, Energy, and Digitalisation. Cabo Verde and The Gambia were made Chair and Vice-Chair for the established Steering Committee.
At the meeting, a Committee of Experts was also established which was composed of the project’s major points and includes experts from the various ministries in charge of telecommunications/ICT/digitalization from the member states as well as the ECOWAS Commission.
The meeting by the Steering Committee started its opening ceremony with a welcome address by Commissioner Sediko Douka, who noted that the project fits perfectly with the third pillar of the ECOWAS vision 2050, which has been adopted by the Authority of Heads of State and Government in 2021. He ended his address reassuring everyone of “the Commission’s unwavering support for the development of infrastructure in the region as a catalyst for development, peace, and prosperity for ECOWAS citizens”.
The Commissioner, the Minister of ICT and Digital Economy of The Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, and Cabo Verde also recognized the importance of the project for their respective countries and also welcome the project name “Amilcar Cabral” , which is named after one of the Fathers of Independence of the ECOWAS region.
The Chief Minister and Coordinator of Government Activities in Sierra Leone, H.E Jacob Jusu Saffa, commended ECOWAS for designing the Amilcar Cabral project for member states which have relied on one cable for so long. He added that the project “will not only provide backhaul for our existing single submarine cables but will also help to increase broadband penetration in member countries and promote regional integration through digital communications and online business facilities, thereby facilitating the creation of a single digital market in the ECOWAS region”.
The Amilcar Cabral submarine cable project is aimed at establishing a fiber optic submarine cable link that will provide redundancy in international connectivity to member states that have one landing station and thereby increase international bandwidth available to internet users. It would also improve the quality, reliability, and accessibility of international telecommunications services which will bring necessary socio-economic benefits to the member states.