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Cablegate on African broadband: 2007 (Ethiopia, Rwanda, Kenya)

September 14, 2011  »  Broadband & BusinessNo Comment

Quite a few WikiLeaks cables deal with the behind-the-scenes of African broadband affairs. Using we have listed the “juiciest” cables (if African broadband can be described as such), below. Many of the cables are extremely telling of what goes on behind closed doors and how the U.S. viewed African telecoms prospects from at least 2006-2009.



Next up are three cables from 2008. The main themes are Ethiopian efforts to develop its monopolistic ICT sector, Rwanda’s drive for tech in East Africa, and Kenya as African broadband leader:


  • Summary: Ethiopia’s telecoms sector remains in a state of monopoly.
  • U.S. viewpoint: Government policies will prevent development in the ICT sector, despite efforts to bolster infrastructure. E-government applications are promising, as are plans for an IT park. There remains to be incentives for foreign investors.
  • Notes:

  • In 2006, Kenya had 18 times as many mobile subscribers per capita as Ethiopia. Somalia had 6x as many.
  • In 2006, Ethiopia had one Internet subscriber for every 3,330 people. Kenya had one for every 200 and even Somalia had one for every 900 citizens.
  • Goal of 85% GSM coverage by the end of 2010. 3G service to begin “soon”.
  • ETC also is eyeying “universal coverage,” or the presence of one phone within 5km walking distance.
  • VOIP is illegal, but an estimated 100 cyber cafes offer the service. ETC loses an estimated USD 9 million annually in revenue from clandestine VOIP.
  • Broadband costs $10,000 US for set-up and $5,000 monthly for a 2MB line. Moreover, the connection isn’t true broadband speed.
  • Many opposition websites blocked after 2005 elections.
  • 4,000km of fiber optic cables exist in Ethiopia, with six times that amount in the works. As of 2007, ETC is in talks with SEACOM and EASSy.
  • Link: Ethiopia: Telecommunications Sector Update – Part I Of II – Infrastructure, December 10, 2007


  • Summary: The well-attended 2007 Connect Africa Summit proved to kick-start infrastructure development in Africa. Multiple donors committed US $50 billion. Paul Kagame effectively painted Rwanda as a technological force.
  • U.S. viewpoint: Rwanda’s goals are a mixed bag of emotions. Paul Kagame and Rwanda have made a name for themselves and have succeeded in attracting technology investment and unifying African leaders to focus on ICT. It remains to be seen if the promises introduced at the summit (for all nations) will materialize.
  • Notes:

  • Summit was attended by Presidents of Rwanda, Burkina Faso, Malawi, Djibouti, Senegal, and Burundi.
  • Dr. Craig Barrett, Chairman of Intel Corporation and the Global Alliance for ICT and Development, estimated that an increase of 10 percentage points in mobile penetration could increase the annual growth rate of GDP by up to 1.2%.
  • Debated broadband infrastructures, rural connectivity solutions, business-friendly policies and regulatory environments, an ICT skilled workforce, and the right balance between private and public investment.
  • More than 70% of Internet traffic within Africa is routed internationally.
  • 0.07% Internet penetration rate in Burundi, according to President Nkurunziza.
  • Rwanda has goal of Internet backbone by the end of 2008. (This goal was not met on time.) The nation also set sci/tech spending at 1.6% of GDP.
  • Microsoft, World Bank Group, AfDB, Huawei, Carnegie Mellon, and ITU all made commitments or investment promises.
  • Link: IT For Africa: Rwanda Leads The Way, November 16, 2007


  • Summary: The Kenyan government and private sector is pushing for infrastructure reform as elections near. Projects include the privatization of Telkom Kenya, a public sale of 25% of Safaricom, Kenya’s first 3G license, a 3rd mobile provider, two fiber-optic cables by mid-2009, and a fiber backbone.
  • U.S. viewpoint: East Africa will benefit from affordable broadband Internet if all projects go according to plan. Kenya rightfully sees itself as a telecoms leader in Africa.
  • Notes:

  • In 2000, industry analysts estimated that Kenya would have 400,000 users within five years, but Kenya instead has 8.1 million after seven.
  • Kenya’s call center industry pays $3,000 per megabyte per month vs. the global norm of $300-600.
  • Kenya’s satellite capacity will max out in July 2008.
  • Limited interest in a continental terrestrial broadband network outlined in August 2006.
  • Telkom Kenya completed a 310 mile fiber cable linking Mombasa to Nairobi in July 2006.
  • Link: Kenya’s Big Push For Ict Reform And Infrastructure, October 25, 2007

Tentative Post Schedule:
9/8/11: (2009) Kenya, Zambia, Ethiopia
9/9/11: South Africa, Nigeria, Tanzania
9/10/11: Tunisia, Kenya, South Africa
9/12/11: (2008) Senegal, South Africa, Uganda
9/14/11: (2007) Ethiopia, Rwanda, Kenya
9/19/11: Ghana, Kenya, Ethiopia, Kenya