Malawi has launched the second phase of the national fibre backbone project that began more than four years ago.
Phase two was launched by the country’s president, Lazarus Chakwera, and has been described as central to Malawi’s digital transformation. The president said that it aligns with the country's accelerators aiming to achieve development goals in the next four years and that the project is critical for making Malawi's economy, society and governance smarter.
The project is again being implemented by Huawei and will include nearly 3,000 kilometres of fibre optic cables. In addition to connecting cities, the project will also connect over 100,000 businesses and homes across the country.
The first phase of the project, implemented by Huawei in conjunction with the Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (ESCOM), was completed in 2018 and covered 28 districts.
According to local press reports, Malawi's internet penetration rate could be as low as 6.8 percent, while mobile phone penetration is around 38.3 percent. The same sources suggest that the high cost of international bandwidth has stifled growth and kept broadband access prices high – something the fibre project is expected to address.
The project will, it is hoped, not only connect more Malawians to the internet but also create jobs and enhance security. The vice president of Huawei Technologies, Southern Africa region, Liao Yong, said the technology could also help farmers to easily access information about their farming needs and connect Malawi to the international world.
The first phase of Malawi's $23 million National Optic Fibre Backbone project began in April 2017. It ended in February 2018. Huawei and ESCOM worked on this phase of the project and laid infrastructure across the country's 28 districts.