Nigerian Government and World Bank Discuss Ambitious 90,000km Fiber-Optic Cable Project

Nigerian Government and World Bank Discuss Ambitious 90,000km Fiber-Optic Cable Project
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In a significant move to enhance Nigeria’s digital infrastructure, the Federal Government has commenced discussions with the World Bank to support the deployment of an additional 90,000 km of fiber-optic cable. This initiative follows the recent approval of a special purpose vehicle (SPV) aimed at bolstering Nigeria’s connectivity.

Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Bosun Tijani, announced this development on Tuesday during the launch of Nigeria Week in Washington, United States. The project aims to expand Nigeria’s fiber-optic network from its current 35,000 km to 125,000 km, positioning it as the third-longest terrestrial fiber-optic backbone in Africa, following South Africa and Egypt.

Tijani, a co-founder of Nigeria’s first tech hub, CcHUB, has been a fervent advocate for treating broadband infrastructure as an urgent priority to propel Nigeria’s digital economy forward. Over the past six months, he has engaged with various stakeholders to drive this initiative.

“A great kickoff for Nigeria Week today at the World Bank headquarters in Washington, DC. Excellent discussions with the World Bank Global Digital Development team on our digital economy agenda, particularly our plans to build out a 90,000 km fiber-optic network,” Tijani shared on X (formerly Twitter).

Prior to his Washington visit, Tijani had a virtual meeting with World Bank representatives to discuss key areas in digital trade for Nigeria, along with preliminary insights from the Digital Trade Policy Gap Analysis.

In addition to enhancing broadband penetration, which currently stands at less than 50 percent, Tijani has also developed an artificial intelligence roadmap, engaging around 120 researchers to chart the way forward.

“I am consistent in my belief that building our connectivity infrastructure backbone is a fundamental piece of the digital economy we are building. That’s why I am particularly grateful for the ever-increasing support from partners for our work in deploying fiber-optic connectivity across the country,” Tijani stated.

Back in May, when the Federal Government assigned the SPV for the project, Tijani emphasized that its governance and operations would model some of the best public-private partnership setups in Nigeria.

“Building on our existing work with the Broadband Alliance, this increased connectivity will help bridge the current non-consumption gap by connecting over 200,000 educational, healthcare, and social institutions across Nigeria, ensuring broader societal inclusion in the benefits of internet connectivity,” Tijani noted.

Nigeria’s broadband targets, outlined in the National Broadband Plan 2020–2025, aim for a penetration rate of 70 percent and a population coverage of 90 percent by 2025. However, significant challenges remain, including insufficient fiber infrastructure, high right-of-way (RoW) fees imposed by state governments, security issues, limited foreign exchange access, and multiple taxation.

The World Bank estimates that $6 billion in annual investments is needed to bridge Africa’s digital divide and ensure widespread access to digital technologies.

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has secured right-of-way fee waivers in six states, a move expected to significantly boost the telecommunications industry. The NCC is also in discussions with several other states to obtain additional RoW fee waivers, further supporting the expansion of Nigeria’s digital infrastructure.

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