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Digital Inclusion

World Bank invests $540M in Kenya, Senegal digital transformation

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The World Bank Group has approved a US$390 million finance deal toward the first phase of the Kenya Digital Economy Acceleration Project, with another US$150 million earmarked for Senegal's digital transformation.

The Kenyan project will focus on the country's expansion in access of high-speed Internet, improve the quality of education and selected government services, and build skills for the regional digital economy, the World Bank said in a statement.

According to the World Bank, the project will consist of two phases – the first of which will run from 2023 to 2028 and will focus on expanding access to high-speed Internet.

Phase two of the project will run from 2026 to 2030 and will concentrate on building a data-driven and secure environment for enhanced digital service delivery and innovation for the regional digital economy.

The project will also mobilize an estimated US$100 million in private capital by crowdfunding in the private sector for broadband infrastructure development, the statement continued.

"Broadening access to digital technologies and services is a cross-cutting pathway to accelerate economic growth and job creation, improve service delivery, and build resilience," said World Bank Country Director for Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia and Uganda, Keith Hansen.

Hansen added that the Kenya Digital Economy Acceleration Project aims to help make Kenya's growth more equitable by shrinking disparities in digital skills and connectivity and expanding the digital marketplace.

Senegal to get US$150 million

Meanwhile, the World Bank also granted Senegal US$150 million in financing to accelerate the West African country's digital economy.

That financing agreement was signed by Senegal's Minister of Finance and Budget Mamadou Moustapha Ba and the World Bank's Country Director for Cabo Verde, The Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritania, and Senegal, Keiko Miwa, on Thursday in Senegal's capital, Dakar.

The funds will be used to improve the legal, regulatory, and institutional environment for the country's digital economy.

It will also improve the adoption of digital public services through improved literacy and digital skills, Ba said during the signing of the agreement.

"It is essential to leverage digital technologies for the benefit of the population in vital sectors, such as health, where digital solutions, including electronic medical records, telemedicine, immunization management and other applications, can have a tangible impact," Miwa continued.

Connecting underserved communities

The World Bank finances are set to increase Internet connectivity in both countries' rural communities.

In Kenya, according to World Bank's Lead Digital Development Specialist, Tim Kelly, the initiative will increase last-mile connectivity by boosting broadband network coverage for over 70% of Kenya's population that resides in rural and underserved areas.

The World Bank finance deals aim to increase Internet connectivity in rural and underserved communities in both Kenya and Senegal. (Source: Image by senivpetro on Freepik)
The World Bank finance deals aim to increase Internet connectivity in rural and underserved communities in both Kenya and Senegal. (Source: Image by senivpetro on Freepik)

"Kenya's digital agenda, reflected in the ambitious ICT Master Plan, aims to transform the country into a regional ICT hub by increasing fiber optic coverage to 100,000 km and digitizing 80% of public services," Kelly added.

In Senegal, the initiative forms part of Senegal's Digital Economy Acceleration Project, and is intended to transform the country into an emerging economy by 2035.

Furthermore, the Senegalese initiative, desires to accelerate the country's digital transformation and achieve the objectives in the 'Digital Senegal 2025' strategic plan.

African digital transformation grows

African countries have in recent times been securing grants and finances toward their digital transformation plans.

In September 2022, the World Bank approved a US$200 million grant for Ghana's digital transformation.

Moreover, in November 2022, Uganda's Parliament approved a US$140 million loan with funds earmarked for a major digital project to improve Internet connectivity in the East Africa nation.

The Rwandan government in January 2023, also confirmed a US$40 million digitization project using an AFD loan.

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*Top image by Image by Freepik.

— Matshepo Sehloho, Associate Editor, Connecting Africa

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