Sierra Leone launches Fiber Optic project

Sierra Leone President Ernest Koroma officially launched the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) fiber optic project Wednesday saying his administration "is committed to the rapid development of information, communication and technology."

He said at the ceremony held at the Lumley beach front site in the west of Freetown that "the system will lead to a massive reduction on the cost of communication as the country is now on the move."

"The farmer in the most remote area should benefit as the student in the university as the country is taken to an era of cheaper communication," he said.

The facility, which was initially 100 percent state-owned, has now been divested with 52 percent given to the private sector currently made up of nine competitors.

The project, which has a start-off grant of 31 million dollars from the World Bank, was augmented with a 15 million dollar Chinese loan to complete the fiber optic connection, according to records in the Ministry of Information and Communication.

In Sierra Leone, Internet penetration is currently seven percent with mobile penetration at 35 percent, according to statistics from the Communication Ministry.

Most of the country's communication infrastructure was severely disrupted as a result of the 10 year rebel war which ended in 2002.

The 17,000-kilometre-long (10,540-mile) submarine cable is to run from Cape Town along the west coast of Africa, through Portugal and to France, according to the project's website. The high bandwidth cable will connect 21 countries, 18 of them in Africa.