French company, Alcatel has won a Sh15 billion tender to lay a cable connecting the Eastern African coastline to the global fibre optic network. Representatives of regional state telecommunication companies that make up the project management committee signed a construction and management (CNMA) document at the Stanley Hotel last week.

Project co-ordinator, John Sihra, from Zanzibar telecommunication (Zantel) said the "CNMA agreement will guide the project for the next 25 years". He said all the parties involved will abide by it.

Last week, Burundi, Tanzania, Kenya and Sudan signed the CNMA with 11 other countries are expected to follow. "The document ensures the obligations and rights of the individual parties that are involved in the project," Sihra said.

Construction could start in August. Sihra said detailed negotiations between Alcatel and the procurement committee "will begin in the next few weeks to finalise the tender after which we will roughly know what our budget is."

The process of selecting a contractor took almost two years, while yesterday's shareholder agreement was signed by four member countries — Burundi, Sudan, Tanzania and Zanzibar. Sihra said funding for the project was assured and the ownership structure was in place.

"All companies with approved licences anywhere in Africa will join the project," said Sihra, adding that they also had international players like British Telecom and VSNL of India on board.

East African Standard