Sierra Leone has signed a US$15 million loan agreement with China to complete connectivity to the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) cable, scheduled to be switched on by October. The loan agreement was signed last Tuesday.

"With the signing of this agreement, it means that the Chinese government has approved the amount of US$15 million and the project would be implemented by a Chinese company Huawei," according to Xu Zhou, head of political affairs at the Chinese embassy in Sierra Leone Thursday.

The Chinese Ambassador Kuang Weilin described the agreement as part of the bilateral and development cooperation between the two countries.

Launched by France Telecom as part of a consortium with telecom operators in participating countries, the 17,000-kilometer ACE cable will run from France to South Africa, connecting 23 countries either directly or indirectly. It is expected to provide a significant boost in broadband access.

Funding for Sierra Leone's first fiber-optic cable connection initially was boosted with a line of credit of US$31 million, which it received from the World Bank to boost its ICT communications sector. A total of $71.5 million was approved by the World Bank for broadband development across Africa last year for three major projects aimed at enhancing ICT infrastructure and access to services in Liberia, Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of São Tomé and Príncipe.

In another development, the Sierra Leone government, through Sierra Leone Cable, has also announced international competitive bidding for consulting services to perform project supervision for the implementation of the 660-km fiber backhaul and Wi-Max access network in the country and the evaluation of bids for the development and deployment of the ECOWAS (Economic Community Of West African States) regional backbone and e-governance program. This project will be supported with a $28.27 million loan received from the Islamic Development Bank.