Over USD200m in investment interest has been made by African telecom operators to develop the Eastern Africa Submarine Cable System (EASSy) after an initial data gathering meeting in Cape Town, South Africa.

The EASSy project is a 9,900km undersea fibre optic cable aimed at linking eastern Africa to the world.

The meeting was held to formally announce the project to a commercial, telecommunications and banking audience to attract equity investment and capacity commitment for the scheme.

"This meeting was designed as an initial drive to raise interest in the EASSy project. We are delighted with the unprecedented level of investment interest. There are strong indications that almost exclusively, investors from the eastern and southern region will fund the project," Sammy Kirui, the chairman of the EASSy management committee, said in a statement recently.

Kirui said due to the success of the data gathering meeting, the project's management committee would proceed rapidly with the next phase of the project.

"A detailed tender will be issued to suppliers with a view of beginning construction early in 2006," he said.

The EASSy cable system, which is the final link in the telecommunications network, is supposed to be operational by the middle of 2007, bringing with it unprecedented opportunities for economic and social growth throughout the continent.

The project has support from the African telecommunications industry like uganda telecom and MTN Uganda, governments and development agencies like the World Bank, Development Group of South Africa, African Development Bank and the New Partnership for African Development.