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The new Times – Rwanda
Last week, Lacina Kone officially took over from Dr Hamadoun Toure as the Executive Director of Smart Africa Alliance, a body that seeks to leverage ICT to drive the continent’s growth agenda.
Kone joins the Smart Africa secretariat at a time when there are high expectations of the 24-member state organisation to grow ICT investments as well as accelerate the adoption of tech across the continent.
He also comes into office at a time when there are growing expectations to increase the membership of the alliance to have increased impact across the continent.
The Ivorian national joins the organisation with an ambition to create a single digital African market, which was launched last year.
Single Digital African market largely entails ‘tearing down’ all borders to have the continent as one market for as well as all-inclusive solutions such as digital identities and block chain for money transfers.
These will, among other things, require investments by the private sector.
For Rwanda, among the expectations under Kone include fostering a unifying environment that will increase cooperation among African countries towards achieving digital goals.
The Minister for ICT and Innovation, Paula Ingabire said that Rwanda also expects to see an increase of the membership of the organisation from the current 24 African countries, possibly to all the partner states of the African Union.
Ingabire said that this will scale up the impact of initiatives under the body as well as create more opportunities for stakeholders.
She also noted that, as members, they expect the commencement of sharing of blueprints of the various initiatives being implemented by member countries.
The alliance works with a model whereby each country has a flagship programme with intentions of sharing approaches and best practices with other countries. For instance, Rwanda is spearheading Smart Cities’ initiative.
“When Smart Africa was created, each country was allocated a flagship programme to spearhead. Rwanda is leading on Smart Cities. The model was that for every model that a country is leading, they should share blueprints of their initiatives for other countries to learn from. We need to start seeing blueprints documented and countries taking up adoption,” she said.
She noted that there are also expectations of roadmaps to implement the Single Digital African Market.
On his part, Kone said that he will seek to continue implementing the roadmap of the organisation.
Among the aspects that he noted require urgent attention is creating unity and a ‘single voice’ by member countries towards initiatives such as increased internet penetration at an affordable cost.
This, he said, will call for the implementation of regulatory frameworks among countries when dealing with operators.
“If you look at, say, the initial internet cost in Rwanda, it’s about $8 per megabyte and it’s about $60 for the same in Côte d’Ivoire which has access to the ocean. Ghana, which neighbours Côte d’Ivoire, has about half the cost. We need to have very serious conversations about such things with a unified voice,” he said.
Other priorities that rank high on his to-do list include one African network to have free roaming for African countries as well as increasing internet exchange points on the continent.
Internet exchange points are physical infrastructure containing network switches that route traffic between the different networks.
In most instances, when one types in a site on the African continent, the request is often routed via Europe which increased the bandwidth used up as well as cost.
By having more exchange points, it will reduce the cost and increase user convenience consequently driving up internet uptake and penetration.
The outgoing director, Toure, assumed the position in 2015 after his stint as the International Telecommunications Union Executive Director.
Under his tenure, he oversaw the setting up of the organisation, growth in membership from the inaugural nine members to 24 as well as brought in private sector members who have since invested in the continent.
Currently, the organisation has 41 private sector partners, the Commercial International Bank, Egypt, Tata communications (Indian) and Rohde & Schwarz, a German technology firm being the latest members to join.
Toure told The New Times that the alliance has been working to attract private companies from across the world to invest in Africa’s ICT sector which consequently creates jobs, speeds up innovation, and avails much-needed solutions.
The membership of private sector stakeholders has enabled the organisation to raise operational budget as well as fund initiatives such as Transform Africa Summit.
The organisation currently has $1.5m in reserve accounts and $4.5m in annual contributions from member states and stakeholders to meet operational budgets. Platinum private sector members pay about $200,000 in membership fees.
Who is Lacina Kone?
Lacina Kone is a Côte d’Ivoire national who has been serving as an advisor to the Prime Minister on Digital Economy. He also advises the Government of Benin on ICT.
He has served in numerous positions, including as head of tech firms such as CVT Global, Booz Allen Hamilton, Intelsat among others.
He holds two masters degrees and has over 20 years of experience in ICT development having begun his career in 1991.
The East African (Nairobi)
By: Allan Olingo
Tanzania and Uganda's oil and pipeline projects will top this year's infrastructure transactions in the region, with the two countries seeking over $7 billion funding for the projects, a new report shows.
According to Debtwire's Africa Project Finance Trend update for 2019, the oil and infrastructure sectors are the most likely to attract interest from investors and financiers this year.
Tanzania is expected to top the infrastructure transactions with the $3.5 billion joint East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline project.
Stanbic Bank Uganda, the lead arranger for a $2.5 billion loan, said that it expects the deal to be concluded in June 2019.
The balance of $1 billion is expected to come from shareholders in the form of equity.
In November 2018, Uganda announced that it expected to have a conclusive financial deal for the joint pipeline with Tanzania by mid-2019, paving the way for its construction after months of delays that have seen Kampala revise its oil production timelines.
Last week, Energy Minister Irene Muloni hinted that production is likely to start in 2022, a slight delay from the revised date of 2021.
Uganda discovered crude reserves more than 10 years ago, but production has been repeatedly delayed by disagreements with field operators over taxes and development strategy. A lack of infrastructure such as a pipeline and a refinery have also held up output.
"We are now looking at 2022, for our first production from the Kingfisher and Tilenga blocks," Ms Muloni told Reuters on the sidelines of the Petrotech conference in New Delhi, India, on Wednesday.
China's CNOOC and France's Total and Tullow Oil have stakes in the two areas. CNOOC is the operator of Kingfisher block while Total leads the exploration in Tilenga.
"We are preparing for production. We have to build a pipeline for exports and a refinery to add value. So unless those two projects are done we cannot start production," said Ms Muloni.
In April 2018, Uganda signed a deal with a consortium, including a subsidiary of General Electric, to build and operate a 60,000 barrel per day refinery that will cost between $3 billion and $4 billion. The refinery is expected to be operational by 2023.
Ms Muloni said Uganda will announce its next exploration licensing round in May.
A final investment decision for the refinery will be taken by September 2020 and the project is expected to be completed in three years' time, she said.
The crude export pipeline through Tanzania, with a capacity to transport 260,000 barrels a day, will be built by 2022, the minister said.
Emmanuel Simon Gilbert, head of downstream operations at the Tanzania Development Corp, said the country expects to take a 15-25 per cent stake in the planned pipeline.
Uganda will also take a stake in the project with the majority share being held by Total, adding that the inter-governmental agreement between the two countries has to be signed before moving to the next stage of the project.
"Ugandan oil is heavy and you need to install heaters along the way at four or five different locations ... so it is a bit challenging," he said.
Kampala is waiting for the final investment decision between the governments and the oil partners to determine when the funds will be made available, the terms of the financing, and when the project execution will commence, with a projected timeline of between 30 and 36 months.
The pipeline is also attracting interest from Chinese financial institutions.
Uganda is also expected to conclude financing for its $4 billion refinery this year, after increasing its shareholding in the regional project to 19.5 per cent.
Total SA has taken up a 10 per cent stake, while Tanzania and Kenya have taken up eight per cent and 2.5 per cent respectively.
"In Uganda, we are expecting a major oil downstream transaction to approach the market in 2019," say analysts at Debtwire.
Meanwhile, Tanzanian oil and gas companies have indicated that they will invest around the Uganda-Tanzania pipeline project, especially in Tanga municipality, which is the final destination of the pipeline.
The Tanga Municipal City Council has allocated 2,000 hectares to potential investors, and the Tanzania Ports Authority has acquired 500 hectares.
Other interested companies are Tanzania and Italia Petroleum Products Refinery, Tanzania Petroleum Development Corporation, GBP Tanzania Ltd, Mihan Gas, Simba Oil, and Ngorongoro Petroleum.
Tanzania's Energy Minister Medard Kalemani announced recently that the government had earmarked land for the construction of five giant storage tanks for crude in Tanga.
Beyond the oil and gas sector, Tanzania expects to conclude the $3.5 billion financing deal for the construction of 1,057 kilometres of railway, being the second phase of the 2,561km standard gauge railway project.
Uganda too will, in the first quarter of this year, issue a request for proposals for $1.5 billion financing of the 95km the Kampala-Jinja highway project is to be built under a public-private-partnership with the Ugandan government injecting $400 million.
Kenya is expected to table a road brownfield project to upgrade more than 100km between Nairobi and Magadi, south of the capital, for $500 million, as it also expects some progress on the second Nyali bridge project in Mombasa.