The Ministers for Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) and Digital Economy of the six ECOWAS member countries concerned by the Amilcar Cabral submarine telecommunications cable development project held the second meeting of the steering committee for the said project. The meeting, which took place on Wednesday, April 5, 2023, in Freetown, Sierra Leone, featured the signing of a memorandum of understanding for the development of the project by the ministers of the six member states in the presence of the ECOWAS Commission as a witness, represented by Sédiko Douka, Commissioner for Infrastructure, Energy, and Digitalization.
Cabo Verde, The Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, and Sierra Leone are the six ECOWAS beneficiary countries. Through this memorandum of understanding signed with the ECOWAS Commission, the six states agree to prepare and develop the Amilcar Cabral submarine telecommunications cable project. They also affirm their commitment to participate in the process of evaluating the technical, economic, financial, social, and environmental feasibility of the project in order to assess its viability and profitability, as well as mobilize the necessary resources for its implementation.
The six-member states also undertook to mutually support the efforts of the ECOWAS Commission to carry out and complete the feasibility study of the proposed project, provide all the information and data required by the team of consultants, and encourage public institutions and telecom network operators in their territories to do the same. Once the feasibility study is completed, the Member States will cooperate and participate in the efforts to determine and plan the next steps for the implementation of the project, including seeking funding from international financial institutions, involving the private sector, and coordinating with the landing parties of the submarine cable and/or any other landing parties established in their territories.
As for the ECOWAS Commission, its mission is to coordinate the implementation of the project by interacting with stakeholders (beneficiary countries, donors, and others).
To ensure the effective supervision and monitoring of the project, the Member States agreed to establish a Ministerial Steering Committee (MSC) and a Committee of Experts (CE). The Ministerial Steering Committee is the decision-making and strategic management body of the project. It comprises the Member States’ Ministers in charge of Telecommunications/ICT/Digitalisation and the ECOWAS Commissioner for Infrastructure, Energy, and Digitalization. Cabo Verde and The Gambia are the chairs and Vice-Chair respectively, of the steering committee.
The Committee of Experts is composed of the project’s focal points (experts from the ministries in charge of telecommunications/ICT/digitalization in the Member States) and the ECOWAS Commission.
The meeting of the Steering Committee featured at its opening ceremony a welcome address by Commissioner Sédiko Douka, who mentioned that the project fits perfectly with Pillar 3 of the ECOWAS Vision 2050, adopted by the Authority of Heads of State and Government in December 2021. He ended his address by reaffirming “the Commission’s unwavering support for the development of infrastructure in the region as a catalyst for development, peace, and prosperity for ECOWAS citizens."
Following the welcome address by the Commissioner, the Ministers of ICT and Digital Economy of The Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, and Cabo Verde recognized in turn the importance of the sub-regional project for their respective countries and welcomed the project’s name, “Amilcar Cabral,” which is the name of one of the Fathers of Independence of the ECOWAS region.
While officially opening the meeting, Jacob Jusu Saffa, Chief Minister and Coordinator of Government Activities in Sierra Leone began by commending ECOWAS for designing this important and relevant project for Member States that have only a single cable. He stated 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."
It should be recalled that the Amilcar Cabral submarine cable project aims to establish a fibre optic submarine cable link that will provide redundancy in international connectivity to those states that have only one landing station, as well as increase the international bandwidth available to internet users. It aims to improve the quality, reliability, and accessibility of international telecommunications services to bring much-needed socio-economic benefits to the target countries.