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Nigeria, World Bank target $3bn to boost broadband

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The Federal Government and the World Bank are targeting about $3 billion to fund an additional 120,000km of fibre optic cables to leapfrog broadband infrastructure and connectivity in the country.

Bosun Tijani, the minister of communications, innovations and digital economy, disclosed during a stakeholders’ engagement themed, “broadband for all”, organised by his ministry in collaboration with the World Bank, Tuesday, in Abuja.

Read also: Nigeria seeks World Bank support on economic recovery

Tijani said the initiative also involved stakeholders from the private sector and was expected to be delivered within the next three years.

The minister said it had become imperative to seek investments in the nation’s digital backbone to make the cost affordable to all Nigerians.

Read also: World Bank says ready to surpass biggest support to Nigeria, others

“We are here with critical stakeholders on how to attract investments and fund our broadband infrastructure. I’m sure everybody listening to me understands that we cannot do without technology and the internet; we all need quality access regardless of our location.

“There’s a need for us to invest in that databank. So, it’s the kind of thing that we call the telecommunications infrastructure, or in some cases, we call the fibre optic cables. There’s a cable that helped us make it possible for the internet to happen,” Tijani said.

He said Nigeria had already laid about 3,035km fiber optic cables, but about 120,000km fiber optic cables would be required for Nigerians to have quality and efficient access to the internet and other digital services irrespective of their locations.

He noted that in terms of finances, the country would require $3 billion to fix infrastructure, stating that through the World Bank, other development finance institutions and the private sector, there was hope that the funds would be raised within the next two to three years.

Franz Gross, the World Bank regional director, (Infrastructure) West and Central Africa, said the first phase of the project would involve laying 95,000km of fiber optic cables across Nigeria. He said that would immediately improve access and digital services content in the country.

According to him, “We plan to set up a digital national broadband fund and to roll out about 95,000 kilometres of what we call middle mile cable. That’s terrestrial cable in Nigeria to bring broadband to more parts of the country.

“I think Nigeria has about 35,000 kilometres of broadband cable. The idea is to add another 95,000, and what we’re discussing with the government is, well, what’s the best way to finance that?

“I want to say that rolling out fiber is part of the problem. What you want is fiber to bring low-cost digital access all over the country. You want to at the same time, invest in digital skills so that people have the wherewithal to get online and to use effectively and then generate digital content.”