TELECOMS

FIBRE LINK BETWEEN TANZANIA, ZAMBIA AND KENYA TO PIGGYBACK ON POWER LINES

Tanzania, Zambia and Kenya will open their first direct phone lines with each other as the Southern and East African countries add telecommunications links to a multi-million dollar power cable project, officials said on Tuesday.

Energy and Water Development Minister George Mpombo said the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) and the East African Community (ECA) had agreed to set up a fibre optic cable link by piggybacking an existing power inter-connector which links the countries' electricity grids.

Currently telephone calls from most African nations to one another have to go through Europe or the United States as the countries do not have direct international telephone links.

The fibre-optic lines will be installed along with cables for the proposed power project, which was first announced last September. The entire project is estimated at a cost of about USD659 million and the first phase is due to come online in 2007.

"Tanzania, Zambia and Kenya have discussed the implementation strategy and agreed to adopt a public-private partnership scheme in which the three governments will have majority equity," Mpombo said in a statement.

The bulk of the power project's financing will come from the World Bank with the countries involved also providing funds.

Mpombo said a private investor to co-finance the project would be selected through competitive bidding next month and that a second and final phase of the power inter-connector was expected to be completed by 2012.

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