A Pan-African E-Network, With India’s Technology


The theme of yesterday’s observance of Africa Industrialization Day was "Technology and Innovation for Industry – Investing in People is Investing in the Future."

Thus it’s more than a little fitting to note that InfoWorld yesterday reported that "a critical mass of countries are signing on to a plan for India to invest $1 billion in the Pan-African e-Network satellite project, a joint initiative with the Africa Union aimed at developing the region’s information and communication technology (ICT) infrastructure:"

The African Union last year entered into an agreement that calls for the Indian government to supply funds for the project. The Indian government will finance the project over a period of five years through a grant to the African Union. Ethiopia for example, has been given a grant of $2.13 million from India for the project.

So far, 27 African countries have signed agreements for the project, designed to connect African countries by satellite and fiber-optic network. The countries that have signed for the project include Zambia, Gambia, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Mauritius and Tanzania.

The project will include installation of Very Small Aperture Technologies (VSATs) to carry VoIP (voice over Internet protocol) communication. The VSATs will be used for online education and telemedicine programs expected to extend ICT infrastructure to rural areas and other underserved communities. The telemedicine network will be used to share knowledge from Indian doctors with their African counterparts through an online training program.

"The project is significant to African countries because it overcomes limitations that make access to remote areas in most African countries difficulty by using VSATs," said Patrick Sinyinza, Zambia’s ambassador to Ethiopia, where the project is based.


More details of the project can be found here, while the official site is here.

It is hoped that creating the Pan-African e-Network will help ameliorate many of the challenges that individual countries have faced when trying to bring satcom to their citizens. (As an example, see this post which we wrote last year about Kenya’s problems bringing satellite connectivity to its residents.) 

Zeenews.com (the India edition) provides insights into India’s eagerness to pursue relations with Africa, a move that is fueled by China’s increasing investment in oil extraction in the region:


Despite its plethora of problems, Africa is a land of promise and opportunity because of its vast natural resource wealth. It is this reason that India, China, the European Union and the United States have not been able to resist the temptation to form partnerships with African countries that are mutually rewarding. China in particular, has been signing deals after deals with African countries to tap the continent’s natural wealth and, in turn, aid Africa’s industrialisation and development. Of late, Asian trade and investment has been rising in Africa and this is part of the global trend towards South-South co-operation among developing nations….

With China`s influence growing over energy-rich Africa, India has already pressed the alarm button. New Delhi is following Beijing’s path to increase oil and gas imports from the resource-rich continent to reduce dependence on Middle East nations like Iran….

The prospects for partnerships with African countries have also grown in the recent past with a surge in investments by Indian companies in nations like Libya, Sudan, Nigeria, Egypt and Gabon. The co-operation holds significance as Africa has the potential to play an important role in enhancing India’s oil supply security through diversification of its crude oil import sources. Significantly, Africa has 10% of the world’s total oil and gas reserves and its hydrocarbon exploration potential remains relatively untapped.

To give a push to Indo-African ties, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh earlier this year visited Nigeria – Africa’s largest oil producing country. In Abuja, Singh announced a "strategic partnership" with Nigerian President Umaru Yar’Adua and signed four agreements to bolster bilateral relations, including in the energy sector. Singh’s historic visit to Nigeria was the first by an Indian Prime Minister in the last 45 years.

The investments by China and India into African infrastructure, beyond the oil industry, are in sharp contract to the limited investments by American and European companies. Few US companies have invested in the region except for the oil and mining sectors, and official US government figures show that American holdings in the sub-Saharan region total just USD 19.6 billion, according to Zeenews.