Cameroon, ICT hub of Central Africa
Could Cameroon soon become a regional leader like what Kenya is to East Africa?
Cameroon may currently have only two competing mobile networks and there may not be active 3G service in the country, but other ICT improvements are happening now. Broadband prices, previously controlled largely by Camtel, are dropping as the available international bandwidth increases. A Central African Backbone project is underway and plans still exist to privatize Camtel. Most recently comes news of a third mobile operator (Viettel) to go live in early 2014 that will only lower prices further (while increasing coverage and adding jobs). Cameroon’s location on the doorstep of West Africa potentially allows information exchange with Nigeria.
After years of relative dormancy, Cameroon’s ministry of telecommunications, MINPOSTEL (ministère des postes et télécoms du Cameroun) is taking great steps to connect citizens to the Internet.
The latest issue of the monthly Cameroonian civil cabinet newsletter includes a multi-page article on the development of ICT in the country. From it, we learn important information about the direction of ICT development in Central Africa. Of course, the viewpoint is somewhat biased in favor of the public sector, but we can sense true commitment to improving ICT infrastructure for all citizens. The tone is very optimistic.
Key highlights include:
- 6,000km transmission network with ‘straps’ provided to border areas in anticipation of regional connections
- The nation of Chad passes all international traffic through the Cameroonian network
- Connections to the Central African Republic and western Nigeria should go live in 2013
- Goals of the Central African Backbone (CAB) project include: improving the business sector, promoting sustainable development, promoting good governance
- Urban deployment of optical fibre loops – Douala (2011), Yaounde (under construction), Buea, Limbe, Maroua (2013)
- Submarine cables landed include SAT-3 and WACS. ACE is expected shortly and there are hopes to land Main One and even Glo cables
- 45 government jurisdictions are connected by broadband
- A project to connect 234 post offices is in the early stages as is one to build a national digital library
- Online transactions are secured by a public key infrastructure and other applications will go live in 2013 – a first for the Central Africa region
- CERT (Computer Emergency Response Team) was deployed in 2012 to coordinate cyber security improvements
- A telecentre construction program is mentioned (but no updates are given)
- The number of ICT training centers is growing and ICT education has been officially introduced in primary and secondary schools
- The third operator licensed to provide 3G service will contribute to lower access costs and better service delivery
Based on this relatively impressive showing of measures, Cameroon truly has become a regional leader of ICT development. Neighboring countries would do well to follow Cameroon’s lead in how to build ICT infrastructure.
Still, the article’s content suggests Cameroon needs to place a greater emphasis on the private sector. No mention was made of how enterprising Cameroonians are using technology to solve local problems. Nor were any agriculture or health programs listed. Hopefully the government’s focus on lower Internet delivery costs will trickle down to innovative small business owners who can showcase the power of technology to the key stakeholders. If all goes according to plan, expect Cameroon to become a regional thought-leader. Just be sure to allow a couple of years.