Indian ICT link boon for Kenya

Workers lay fibre optic cables. A new project is meant to connect India with all 53 African Union countries via satellite and fibre optic network. File

Kenya’s technology sector will benefit from trade in-flows amounting to $70 billion as it deepens links with India.

Developments at the World Economic Forum held in New Delhi recently could see science and technology transfers and the creation of value-added products from raw materials, as well as infrastructure development, prioritised as the two countries move to cement their trade relations.

“We see Africa’s relationship with Brazil, India and China as strategic. They are important in the quest for socio-economic development of our continent,” said Kenya’s Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

India recently announced that it intends to share out $70 billion among several countries on the continent, and has earmarked a portion of that amount to go to investments in the fast-growing ICT sector.

Kenya’s technology sector is likely to benefit from its involvement in the Pan-African e-Network Project, a 2004 initiative that Anand Sharma, India’s Minister of Commerce and Industry, said would be fast-tracked.

The project is meant to connect India with all 53 African Union countries via satellite and fibre optic network. It aims at creating significant linkages for tele-education and tele-medicine, making expertise of some of the best universities as well as specially hospitals in India available to the people of Africa.

It is also expected to support e-governance, e-commerce, infotainment, resource mapping and meteorological and other services in Africa, besides providing VVIP connectivity among heads of state of African countries through a highly secure closed satellite network. Thirty three countries have already joined the initiative and more are expected to join in coming months. The second phase of the project was inaugurated earlier this year.

Increased influence

Kenya recently joined the project, which covered 11 countries in its first phase. The project was approved by the African Union’s cabinet in July 2007 at a cost of $125 million.

Telecommunications Consultants India Limited is implementing the project that aims at providing tele-education services to 10,000 African students. Analysts said the move was likely to boost Indo-Kenyan ties.

The growing influence of Asian firms on the Kenyan business landscape has drastically tipped ICT products investment in-flows in favour of new players from the East. Indian firms have increased their influence in the sector, with Bharti and Essar Telecoms pouring over $20 billion into the country’s fast-growing mobile sector in the last year.

India’s state-run power equipment maker Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd also recently announced a proposal to partner with the government-owned Numerical Machining Complex Ltd to set up a transformer manufacturing plant that will serve eastern and southern Africa.

Analysts noted that the shifts taking place in the industry were not affecting the more visible mobile telecommunications sector only. Infrastructure deals are increasingly becoming attractive to foreign investors as they seek to be in a position to power the anticipated growth in ICT.

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