International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, has provided a USD345 million financial package for Bangladesh’s largest cellco GrameenPhone to support its network expansion in rural areas, while aiming to improve energy efficiency as well as promoting employment opportunities and sustainable development. Financing for GrameenPhone has been made available through a consortium of lenders including development finance institutions Proparco, DEG, FMO, CDC and OFID and one commercial bank, Standard Chartered Bank. IFC’s own investment in the package is USD150 million. This is one of the largest private sector financing packages in Bangladesh, where teledensity remains low by global standards. The investment will increase access to telecommunication services for both voice and data, helping smaller businesses create employment and supporting both public and private sectors to better deliver education, health, and other basic services using mobile technology, a press release reads. ‘The potential to expand telecom services in Bangladesh is huge and IFC’s financing will be crucial in helping us improve connectivity and coverage in rural areas, boosting digital inclusion,’ said Vivek Sood, CEO of GrameenPhone. ‘Experience from rural Bangladesh shows that livelihood opportunities improve as a result of information and transactions facilitated through mobile phones,’ said Kyle F. Kelhofer, IFC country manager for Bangladesh, who added: ‘Investment in telecommunication can help the country achieve its target for poverty reduction.’ IFC has supported the growth of the telecom sector in Bangladesh through a long-term engagement with GrameenPhone since 1998.
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