According to a statement from the EASSY project's secretariat in Nairobi and the co-ordinators in Dublin, Ireland, tender evaluation had commenced and anticipated to be completed in the early part of this year. A number of international companies including Tyco of US, NEC and Fujitsu (Japan) and Alcatel (France), were invited to tender for the project.

"EASSy partners are pleased to announce that the project is on track and within the envisaged time scale, with the system coming into service in the second quarter of 2007," they said.

Sammy Kirui, the EASSy project management committee chairman, said the project last year received support from the telecommunications industry, business community, and regional governments.

Kirui, who is also Telkom Kenya managing director, said the project attracted over US$200m (Sh15b) in investment interest following a recent meeting held in South Africa. The meeting was held to formally unveil the project to a commercial, telecommunications and banking audience with a view of attracting capital. "We are very delighted with the unprecedented level of investment interest and there are strong indications the project will be funded almost exclusively by investors from the Eastern and Southern African region," he said.

Kirui said agencies such as World Bank, African Development Bank and New Partnership for African Development had recognised the importance of the EASSy project as a critical driver in the economic development of the region.

Given the current position of the project, a 2008 start date is probably more realistic but the project consortium are anxious to show that significant progress is being made.

The East African Standard