Baharicom Development Company (BDC) recently signed an MoU with the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) Consortium, to co-build a submarine cable that will stretch from France to South Africa, connecting all countries along the West coast of Africa.
BDC (the company that is charged with the development of Uhurunet; the submarine segment of the NEPAD Network) has achieved a significant milestone in the development of the Uhurunet submarine cable by joining the ACE consortium. This jointly developed submarine cable will form part of the Uhurunet submarine cable ring that will circumscribe the African continent and make provision for connecting all African coastal countries as well as the islands around the continent. While the ACE submarine cable was originally planned to extend from Europe to Gabon, the collaboration with BDC means that the cable will now be extended all the way to South Africa, and will ensure that every country on the West African coast is connected to the cable. The ACE cable system, which will be more than 14,000 km long, will be ready for service in 2011.
It will include state-of-the-art submarine cable technology with a minimum capacity of 1.92Tbit/s, capable of providing the network connectivity required to meet the needs of African countries. Prior to this, BDC had signed a Landing Party Agreement (LPA) with SENTECH, a publicly owned South African company that is licensed to provide telecommunications services in the country. The LPA will permit ACE/Uhurunet to land in South Africa. BDC is currently seeking Landing Party Agreements with local partners in every country where it will establish a landing station.
BDC is also considering the use of existing landing stations where agreements can be reached with owners of those landing stations. Meanwhile, BDC is continuing negotiations with several submarine cable developers to realize the Uhurunet segment along the East coast of Africa. Similar negotiations are ongoing for the North African segment. The objective of the NEPAD ICT infrastructure programme is to ensure that every country in Africa is connected to its neighbours by a broadband network and, in turn, to the rest of the world through existing or planned submarine cable systems. To this end, the NEPAD e-Africa Commission is promoting the development of the NEPAD ICT Broadband Infrastructure Network, which consists of a submarine segment, Uhurunet, and a terrestrial network, Umojanet. Uhurunet and Umojanet are being developed within the framework of a Ministerial Protocol signed in Kigali, Rwanda, in 2006 under the auspices of the African Union.
Bandwidth on Uhurunet and Umojanet will be provided to all licensed service providers on a non-discriminatory, open access basis as stipulated in the Kigali Protocol.
The NEPAD ICT Development Trust created by the Inter-Governmental Assembly (IGA), will hold 20% of the shares in BDC, which will, in turn, hold a minority stake in Baharicom, the company that will operate the Uhurunet submarine cable once completed. The majority of the shares in Baharicom will be owned by entities from across the African continent.