The European Investment Bank (EIB) has invested 24 million Euros in a project by Africa Mobile Networks that will connect four million people in rural Africa to mobile phone networks for the first time.
The EU Bank has announced the roll-out of coverage in the rural areas of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Cameroon in the project that will see the construction of 1, 000 new solar-powered mobile phone base stations.
“Mobile phone usage has radically increased across African cities over the last decade. However, more than two thirds of Africa’s poorest and most vulnerable people remain digitally disconnected and excluded from telecom coverage with the economic and social opportunities it provides,” said European Investment Bank Vice-President Pim van Ballekom.
It is expected to strengthen access to financial services including money transfers and salary payments; access to commerce; access to online health, banking and other crucial services that will transform daily life; and to economically empower women in the two countries.
Over two thirds of the new mobile phone coverage will be located in the conflict-torn areas of North and South Kivu in eastern DRC where improved communication will also contribute to increased security for the vulnerable villages there.
Bart Ouvry, EU Ambassador to the DRC said, “Ensuring access to affordable, secure broadband and digital infrastructure is a key priority for the European Union both in and beyond its borders- and part of its commitment to fulfil the Sustainable Development Goals. This initiative by the EU’s Bank will have an important impact on some of the most remote villages in Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo.”
The project support comes from the Impact Financing Envelope, a special window under the African Caribbean Pacific (ACP) Investment Facility funded by EU Member States and managed by the EIB for initiatives where a high financial risk is rewarded by a higher impact for local populations.
“Our pilot projects are demonstrating already that this can make a real difference to people’s lives. Take the Democratic Republic of Congo, where 750 of the 1, 000 towers will be built. Access to mobile data means communities that have been dangerously cut off can now access security information and well as basic services like health and education,” Michael Darcy, CEO of Africa Mobile Networks added.
It will also enable farmers to get more accurate prices for agricultural produce andincrease information about job opportunities. Entrepreneurs will be able to start new businesses as they will be able to organise and manage supply chains by telephone.
The EIB has provided over six billion Euros for telecommunication investment globally.