After several missed opportunities, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has finally managed to connect the country’s telecoms infrastructure to the West Africa Cable System (WACS) submarine network, which links South Africa to the UK. According to Agence Ecofin the launch event took place on 14 June, with the submarine cable’s management committee informing telecoms minister Tryphon Kin-Kiey Mulumba that the cable was now ready for service.
TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database notes that 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.