I’ve been curious to find out what high speed Internet backbone projects are underway in Zimbabwe.
Reading through the Zimbabwe investment prospectus launched by the Zimbabwe Investment Authority (ZIA) a few months ago, I came across a project by Africom Continental. Africom Continental is a special purpose vehicle company formed by Africom (50%), the Infrastructure Development Bank of Zimbabwe(30%) and NSSA(20%$) to spearhead the development of an optic-fibre cable between Harare and Mutare. There’s no indication of estimated completion date, understandably so as implementation fell behind schedule due to Zimbabwe’s economic turmoil in the past few years. The project’s listing in the investment prospectus is a bid to attract investor interest for another round of funding to complete the implementation. The nearest undersea cable this fibre-optic is laid to plug into would be either the SEACOM or the EASSy cable both via Maputo. The SEACOM cable, now live, was completed in July 2009 and is already connected to Mozambican telco TDM. The EASSy one is on schedule to be completed in the second quarter of 2010.
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TelOne, the fully government owned telco has a similar but larger initiative in the same document. The parastatal needs about USD 98 million funding to implement an “Optical Fibre National Transmission Backbone” consisting of the following links:
· Harare-Mutare-Forbes Border Post Link
· Harare-Kwekwe-Gweru-Masvingo-Beit Bridge Link
· Beit Bridge-Bulawayo-Victoria Falls Link
· Gweru-Bulawayo-Plum tree-Botswana
In terms of connecting to a high speed internet undersea cable, TelOne has mentioned before that they have signed agreements with EASSy and SEACOM to connect to the Maputo point. This would effectively create two high speed internet fibre links into Zimbabwe.
The duplication makes some sense though as leaving business and consumers at the mercy of a private company’s bandwidth monopoly has its own ugly consequences. If completed, the TelOne network would have Zimbabwe benefiting from reselling the bandwidth to Botswana, Malawi, Zambia and arguably even the DRC.