PRESS CONFERENCE ON THE LAUNCH OF THE WEST AFRICA REGIONAL COMMUNICATIONS INFRASTRUCTION PROGRAM-WARCIP LIBERIA
September 30, 2011
Acting Country Manager and Senior Operations Officer
World Bank Group Liberia Office
Remarks: Press Conference on the Launch of the
West Africa Regional Communications Infrastructure Program - WARCIP Liberia
Liberia Telecommunications Authority Offices
Minister of Posts and Telecommunications, Dr. Frederick Norkeh;
Ladies and gentlemen of the media.
On behalf of the World Bank Group, and in the name of Dr. Nyanin, our Country Manager who is currently out of the country, I am very pleased to be here with you today, accompanying the Chairperson of the LTA and the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications, in order to inform the people of Liberia about this exciting project that is being financed, in part, by a $US 25.6 million dollar concessional credit from the World Bank. Liberia is now a member of the West Africa Regional Communications Infrastructure Program - WARCIP - which is now making possible the construction of the West Africa portion of an approximately 17,000 km submarine cable system, which will carry high speed internet from Europe to South Africa, connecting 23 countries including the landing station in Liberia.
The lack of access to low price and high quality telecommunications services is one of the factors that presently limit the potential of Liberia to create jobs, expand production of goods and services, and trade competitively with the rest of the world. Poor telecommunications services in Liberia are presently a major obstacle to the social and economic development of the country. The lack of access to an international submarine cable, coupled with the absence of national connectivity backbone has resulted in low bandwidth and high price of Internet service, which prevents Liberia from benefiting from advanced ICT enabled applications.
Connection to the Africa Coast to Europe submarine cable represents a unique opportunity for Liberia, which has missed out on earlier opportunities to connect to existing global submarine fiber cable systems. This project proposes an integrated approach to improve connectivity in Liberia by providing access to the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) submarine cable and creating an enabling environment and institutional strengthening to support for private sector participation in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) infrastructure. The Project recognizes that the creation of a competitive, enabling environment in the sector is a prerequisite for affordable connectivity and ensuring an open and non-discriminatory access to capacity. Results in many countries show that this translates into improved connectivity and lower prices of communications services.
So what will success in the project look like in the near future? It should dramatically bring down communication costs – connectivity costs in Liberia are currently 10 times more than that in East Africa. It would therefore lead to greater access to broadband and better quality services. Intensification of broadband network will stimulate investment and growth as businesses would be able to reduce transaction costs and increase productivity – research shows that every 10 percentage-point increase in high-speed internet connections has led to increase in economic growth by 1.3 percentage points.
It is today well recognized that Information and Communication Technology plays a key role in economic and social development. ICT is no longer a luxury; it is a core element of the muscles that drive the new economy. Improved access to ICT leads to improved competitiveness of small and medium size businesses and promotes new opportunities for job creation, trade, and the diversification of the economy, things that are very important to Liberia today. In other countries, landing of high-speed internet has produced tangible benefits for businesses, banks, hotels, educational institutions, hospitals, among others.
Increased and cheaper bandwidth will also open up tremendous opportunities for e-government applications, and thus improving governance and accountability to citizens. ICT will also help improve the delivery of other services like health, education which are all needed to reach the Millennium Development Goals. It will improve communication among the people of Liberia, and open up new horizons for the country’s young people.
Over the past several years, the World Bank has provided non-lending technical assistance to Liberia’s telecommunications sector given that the GoL has been committed to using ICT as a tool for economic development in the context of post war reconstruction. Important progress has been made in the reform agenda of the sector to this end; the GoL has formulated a telecommunication sector policy, a comprehensive legal framework and the creation of an independent regulatory authority. A telecommunication Act was adopted in 2007 and provides for the creation of an enabling environment based on certainty, predictability and transparency; and which promotes a private sector-led, competitive environment overseen by a permanent independent regulator.
That work has made possible this new project that we are here to launch today. We are confident that through the Ministry of Post and Telecommunication and the Liberia Telecommunications Authority and with the support of the Project’s Implementation Unit, the people of Liberia will soon see the results of this very exciting project that will help improve people’s lives in a way we can’ t even imagine now.
We are all aware that improving connectivity is not the only thing that needs to be done in promoting inclusive economic growth and the reduction of poverty in Liberia. Just as the World Bank has been a partner of Liberia over the past 6 years since our reengagement after the end of the civil war, we will continue to support the country in rebuilding basic infrastructure in transport and energy as well as in other activities which seek to promote job creation and the strengthening of human capital and good governance.
We will be back in touch with you all again when we begin to develop the next five year World Bank strategy for Liberia towards the end of this calendar year.
Thank you and congratulations again for this exciting new opportunity which holds so much promise for the country’s future.