China's Huawei started work this past Saturday on a 4,000-kilometer fiber-optic cable project that will deliver high-speed Internet access to residents of Guinea, and could serve other West African countries when it's completed in 2017.
The cable will offer 77 exchange points and make Guinea the first West African country to benefit from such broad coverage. About five million of the country's 11 million people have mobile phones but less than 2 percent have access to the Internet. The $238 million project is financed in large part by China's Eximbank, according to Xinhua.
Most fiber-optic cables in the region are owned by private telecom operators and are laid across several countries, but this new cable project overseen by the government will offer high-speed Internet access to benefit individuals, schools, businesses, and local administrations, as well as create about 20,000 jobs, a statement from the Guinean president's office said.
Huawei West Africa's Kevin Li said that neighboring countries will be able to share the benefits of the fiber-optic cable.
The ACE (Africa Coast to Europe) submarine cable, which links 23 countries along the west coast of Africa to Portugal and France, has a landing point in Guinea. Guinea's new cable could benefit other members of the close-knit four-nation Mano River Union which also includes Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Côte d'Ivoire. Sierra Leone and Liberia in particular are currently only served by ACE. Guinea's closest French-speaking neighbor, the landlocked nation of Mali, may also get improved Internet connectivity.