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, is expected to occur within the next 20 days. The update was revealed by Placide Mbatika, the current director general of the Societe Congolaise des Postes et Telecommunications (SCPT), who confirmed that the installation of transmission equipment at the landing station in Muanda on the Atlantic coast commenced, albeit belatedly, on 15 October. If the link up goes ahead as planned, the DRC’s telecoms operators will hope that the somewhat farcical state of affairs surrounding the arrival of the WACS infrastructure has finally been put to bed.
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 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.