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Africa | Mauritius
Economy - Development | Technology

Pan-African e-network hub may go to Mauritius

afrol News, 23 May - Mauritius is one of three or four countries short-listed for the setting up of the "Continental Hub Earth Station" in the wake of the implementation of the Pan-African e-network Project. The India-funded giant project - estimated at more than US$ 1 billion - is to connect 53 African countries through satellite, fibre optics as well as wireless links, in addition to provide tele-medicine and tele-education to Africans.

The Mauritian Prime Minister's Office today issued a statement saying that "Mauritius is one of the three countries short-listed" for the African continental hub of this giant infrastructure project. The "Hub Earth Station" in Africa is where the main connection point with the African network's Indian counterparts, as the main service location would be in India.

The government of Mauritius - which does not quote its sources for the short-list - claims there are currently only two competitors for the African hub location. This contrasts information released by the Ghanaian Ministry of Communications earlier this year, claming the main bidders for the hub were Ghana, South Africa and Ethiopia. "Ghana considers that it is better placed to host the hub because of progress made in infrastructure development," the Ministry noted.

The seriousness of the Mauritian bid however was demonstrated earlier this month. A team, comprising representatives of the African Union (AU) Commission, the Regional African Satellite Communication Organisation and the government of India was in Mauritius on 6 May to inspect facilities available for the setting up of the Hub Earth Station.

During a meeting with the members of the team, the Mauritian Minister of Information Technology and Telecommunications, Marie Joseph Sinatambou, confirmed that Mauritius was committed to the project and gave the assurance that "all facilities and support" would be provided for the successful implementation of the Indian development project.

The Pan-African e-network Project was announced by Indian President Abdul Kalam at the AU conference in Johannesburg in September 2004. A memorandum of understanding was signed between the Indian government and the AU in October 2005 and Telecommunications Consultants India Limited (TCIL) was selected to implement the project.

The project, which could cost several billion US$, is seen as the largest infrastructure project in Africa's history. The e-network is to cover 53 African nations by satellite and fibre optic network to promote tele-medicine, tele-education and VOIP connectivity. The e-education and e-medicine aspects of the project in particular may provide opportunities to extend essential ICT infrastructure to certain rural communities and under-served areas.

These e-health and e-education services are to be provided by seven universities - two in India and five in Africa - and eight hospitals - three in India and five in Africa. First pilot projects are already initiated on a national basis - notably in Ethiopia and Ghana.

The choice of location for the Hub Earth Station is followed with much attention in several African states. It is considered a great possibility to secure economic growth and technological progress, in addition to excellent communications. The Mauritian government expects that the hub could mean a "breakthrough in improving the ICT investment climate" in the country.

Mauritius is one of the African countries having the best and longest relations with India. A large part of the Mauritian population - including leading politicians - is of Indian descent and official visits to India by Mauritian politicians are frequent. Additionally, communications with India are relatively good for the Indian Ocean island state.

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