Sierra Leone has confirmed a US$30-million loan agreement to finance its contract with Huawei for the second phase of its National Fibre Optic Backbone Project.
During this phase of the project, fibre cables will be installed in unconnected regions and enable MNOs and ISPs to expand their capacity and offer 3G and 4G services.
The regions include 19 cities -15 of which will get new backbone stations while a new metropolitan area network will be constructed in the remaining four, to serve a total of about 2.6 million people.
At a recent press briefing, information ministry officials said the contract is based on a renegotiated agreement and covers 690 km of fibre optic cable.
It was also confirmed that the loan to finance the project had been secured with the Exim Bank of China as a result of an agreement between the finance ministry and the bank’s representative, the Political Counsellor of the Chinese Embassy in Sierra Leone, Wang Xinmin.
The ministry also signed an on-lending agreement of the same amount with the Sierra Leone Cable Network (SALCAB) which manages the project.
According to terms, SALCAB must repay the loan within 15 years after a grace period of five years, without the recourse of applying to the national budget for support.
The fibre optic cable is part of the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) submarine cable landed in 2012 to enable Sierra Leone and other countries to connect to fibre optic for the first time.
The 17,000-km ACE cable, which runs from France to South Africa to connect 23 countries, was supported mainly by the World Bank as a regional ECOWAN project costing Sierra Leone US$28-million for the deployment of a 660-kilometre cable that connects Liberia.