Guinea-Bissau, World Bank, Orange and MTN team up on $47m subsea project

25 July 2017 | Jason McGee-Abe


The government of Guinea-Bissau has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the World Bank, Orange and MTN for a $47 million project to link the country to the African Coast to Europe (ACE) subsea cable.

Guinea Bissau

Under the agreement, French telecoms company Orange and South Africa's MTN Group will form a consortium alongside the government of the West African country. "The World Bank unlocks $31.596 million in the form of a loan to connect Bissau to the international fibre-optic cable," said the finance and transport ministries in a statement, which added that Orange and MTN will provide around $8 million each over a five-year period, which makes the total amount for the project $47 million. 

The new fibre-optic spur will be owned and operated by a consortium dubbed ‘Bissau Cabo’.  The Government of Guinea-Bissau has established a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) with private sector operators to share the cost of the investment in international and national connectivity and to ensure an efficient management of the submarine cable landing station.

The government created a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) and has divested its shares in the SPV to the private sector. Orange Bissau and MTN Bissau hold a combined 51% stake, while the government will be in possession of the remaining 49%. A memorandum describing the commitments of the government and the private sector was signed on 1 November 2016 by the Ministry of Economy and Finances (MoF), and the CEO of Orange Bissau. 

Access to the ACE submarine cable and the future West African Power Pool regional infrastructure will reduce the cost for the countries neighbouring Guinea-Bissau, and will result in positive effects on prices and capacity, increased availability of end-to-end high-capacity bandwidth at competitive rates and hence broadband provisioning within the region. This is the view from the Africa Infrastructure Country Diagnostic (AICD) report which highlights the importance of regional integration, including international infrastructure. "Providing Guinea-Bissau with diversity of access to international connectivity via access to the ACE submarine cable is vital to achieving an acceptable level of service reliability (currently inadequate due to cuts on existing terrestrial cable connections) and competitive pricing.”

The news comes after African operator InterCEL+ announced that it was to build a wireless network to connect the ACE subsea cable across the republic of Guinea. The project is set to provide a significant boost to local economies across Guinea, offering businesses affordable access to fibre-like broadband speeds that enable a wealth of advanced communications. Guinea Bissau will be the last coastal country in the region to link to a submarine cable.

At the signing ceremony to establish the consortium in July, minister of transport and telecommunications, Fidélis Forbs said the project will help the development of Guinea-Bissau.

The Guinea-Bissau project is due to be completed in 18 months and officials said it would improve internet speeds and reduce communication costs in the country which only 3.8% of individuals in the country are internet users, according to the UN’s International Telecommunication Union.