Kenya is among eastern Africa countries to benefit from a new project meant to expand internet reach on the continent.
The European Investment Bank announced on Tuesday it was funding a private investment to build infrastructure for internet penetration to remote villages of Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The new venture to be undertaken within the next two years by a yet-to-be declared entity is meant to see these countries improve their internet access to support rising electronic commercial ventures.
The bank, which is the lending arm of the European Union, announced on Tuesday the project will cost about €15.4 million (Sh1.8 billion) and will be part of an overall €495 million financing for various Africa-wide projects in transport, clean energy and internet access.
“Sustainable transport, clean energy and communications networks are shared challenges for Europe and Africa.
“Working together we can improve the lives of millions. The three projects signed today are more evidence of this,” said Dr Werner Hoyer, President of the European Investment Bank, in a media release on Tuesday.
The move was announced on the sidelines of the Africa Europe High Level Forum in Vienna where several African leaders including Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta and Rwandan President Paul Kagame, also Chairman of the African Union, were attending.
The forum in the Austrian capital is themed ‘Taking cooperation to the digital age’ and is meant to promote innovation and digitalisation “as important enablers for our future development, so that everyone can benefit from the ongoing digital transformation,” according to a brochure about the conference.
Amid the tide of illegal immigrants from Africa, the European Union thinks it can harness technology to help create jobs on the continent and dissuade masses of youth from leaving through dangerous routes to Europe.
In Kenya, about a third of Kenyans are online and the EU thinks the internet can enhance commercial transactions such as via M-Pesa, access to health services and information on agricultural pricing for commodities.
Once complete, the project with a network length of 4,850 km is likely to add another nine million people to the pool of those accessing the internet in these countries.
The Vienna forum came on the backdrop of the Africa-Europe Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs announced by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker three months ago.
On Tuesday, Mr Juncker presented what he called the Alliance, which he argued will “deepen the economic and trade relations between the two continents, in order to create sustainable jobs and growth.
“Europe and Africa share a long history and a bright future. This is why I proposed a new Africa-Europe Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs, to help attract both European and African investment and create 10 million jobs in Africa over the next five years.
“Translating words into action, we have already taken a series of measures to bring our ambitions to life,” he said.
The bank will also be financing New projects in Egypt, Guinea and East Africa.
They include upgrading Cairo’s main metro line, completion of a new cross-border interconnector to enable first-time access to electricity by 200,000 people in Guinea and increased use of clean energy in Guinea, Mali, Liberia and Cote d’Ivoire.