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World Bank provides $266.5 million to boost internet connectivity in Gambia, others

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WASHINGTON, November 30, 2023 – The World Bank  today approved a $266.5 million (in IDA* financing) game-changing program aimed at improving internet access in The Gambia, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, and Mauritania, and to promote a single digital market in West Africa. The regional initiative will also partner with the African Union, Smart Africa, and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to strengthen institutional capacities for managing and promoting digital markets. 

The Digital Transformation for Africa/West Africa Regional Digital Integration Program (DTfA/WARDIP) will bridge the digital divide, making internet services in the region more affordable, promoting competition among service providers, and improving the underlying infrastructure to unlock new opportunities for employment, access to services for 1.3 million individuals, including 50% women, and people with disabilities.

Despite progress in mobile broadband coverage, West Africa still faces significant gaps in digital connectivity, access, and usage. The adoption of mobile broadband services remains below 40%, primarily due to high retail prices acting as a barrier. Infrastructure deficits, especially in international connectivity and resilient fiber optic backbone, remain major obstacles to meeting the growing demand for data and online services.

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“DTfA/ WARDIP is a crucial step toward an interconnected, innovative, and inclusive future for West Africa. Beyond shaping a digital landscape, it aims to foster regional integration through collaboration and strategic investments”, said Boutheina Guermazi, World Bank Director for Regional Integration for Africa and the Middle East. “It will break down barriers, cultivate a dynamic digital ecosystem, and empower local communities and businesses to thrive in the digital age”.

Most importantly, DTfA/WARDIP will support Smart Africa to build capacities for African policy and decision makers in digital transformation, which is crucial for the development of the Single Digital Market. It will also help to close gender gaps in digital skills, entrepreneurship, and digital financial services, ensuring that women have equal opportunities to benefit from the digital economy. ICT service providers and businesses will get support to foster a regional digital market for expansion, while public sector entities, universities, and regulatory bodies will receive targeted support to enhance their digital development contributions.

DTfA/ WARDIP is aligned with Africa’s continental and regional initiatives. It will contribute to an inclusive future for Africa and is fully in line with the African Union’s strategic vision for creating single digital markets by 2030 through the development of appropriate policies and regulations for coordinated digital transformation in Africa. 

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The International Development Association (IDA) is the World Bank’s fund for the poorest. Established in 1960, it provides grants and low to zero-interest loans for projects and programs that boost economic growth, reduce poverty, and improve poor people’s lives. IDA is one of the largest sources of assistance for the world’s 76 poorest countries, 39 of which are in Africa. IDA resources help effect positive change in the lives of the 1.6 billion people living in the countries that are eligible for its assistance. Since its inception, IDA has supported development work in 113 countries. Annual commitments are constantly on the rise and have averaged $21 billion over the past three years, with about 61% going to Africa.

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