Liberia on Friday launched the World Bank-funded West African Regional Communications Infrastructure Program (WARCIP) in Monrovia, which connected the country for the first time to a fiber optic cable.

The World Bank loaned Liberia US$26.5 million for the project.

The Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) submarine cable system, with high-speed Internet, from Europe to South Africa reached west Africa near by the Mauritanian coast Thursday. ACE will connect 23 countries, including Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The WARCIP project is using an integrated approach to improve connectivity in Liberia, providing access to the ACE cable and creating an environment that supports private sector participation in IT infrastructure.

High prices and low-quality telecommunications services are among the factors limiting Liberia's potential to create jobs, expand production of goods and services, and trade competitively with the rest of the world, said Coleen Littlejohn, acting country manager and senior operations officer of the World Bank Group in Liberia, speaking at the launch.

"Poor telecommunications services in Liberia are presently a major obstacle to the social and economic development of the country," she said. "The lack of access to an international submarine cable, coupled with the absence of national connectivity backbone has resulted in low bandwidth and high price of Internet service, which prevents Liberia from benefiting from advanced ICT enabled applications."

She added that future success in the project should bring down communication costs in Liberia, leading to greater access to broadband, which would stimulate investment and growth.