According to Agence Ecofin, the Democratic Republic of Congo’s long-awaited connection to the West African Cable System (WACS), which officially launched on 11 May 2012, failed to materialise by the 22 April deadline, adding more confusion to the already farcical process. Telecoms minister Tryphon Kin-Kiey Mulumba placed the blame for the most recent failure at the feet of South African officials, asking for the DRC’s telecoms players ‘not to overreact’. He reiterated that the country has met all of its financial obligations towards the WACS network, and assured journalists that the landing station has now been completed.
According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, when the WACS cable was initially due to be landed and tested in May 2011, the DRC found itself completely unprepared, with the company hired to build the landing station yet to actually start construction. Despite a recommendation from French-US equipment manufacturer Alcatel-Lucent, which endorsed an Indian company called ‘Creative Electronics’ to build the station and deploy a fibre-optic cable route to the capital, the Societe Congolaise des Postes et Telecommunications (SCPT) intervened and overruled the government and instead gave the job to local company Smart Trading Ideas. Smart had neither experience nor knowledge of the technology they were hired to utilise, and in April 2011, when the boat deploying the WACS arrived, the cable could not be connected at Muanda as there was no infrastructure in place to do so. Further, in May 2012 it was revealed that the problems had been exacerbated by financial irregularities at the SCPT, which saw USD3 million worth of government funds effectively ‘vanish’; the director general was subsequently charged with high treason and jailed for his part in the scandal.