Investing Benin: ITV: Serge Adjovi, Director, Digital Economy Agency
How does the government plan to improve Internet access?
The government has made digital one of the keystones of all its development projects. For this reason, we set ourselves the ambitious target of 80% internet access by 2021, against about 20% by the end of 2016. We have thus accelerated the installation of 2,000 kilometres of digital backbone, launched three years ago. This backbone will be completed by March 2018. Costs have dropped by 30% to 70% for three years as a result of the increase in our capacity, especially fibre optics. In terms of network interruptions, we’ve brought the unavailability rate down from the 20 days a year
of a few years ago, to four days now and in 2018 it will come down to a few hours.
How will you connect the backbone to the buildings?
“Our goal: internet access for 80% of the population by 2021”
What is missing is the “capillary” element needed to reach buildings. We’re relying on telecom operators for this. For this relationship to run smoothly, we have adopted a Digital Code that updates all existing texts and fills gaps, for example, in terms of cyber security, thus making digital solid from both an infrastructure and legal point of view. At the same time, we’re restructuring the sector. In 2016 we had five mobile operators and ten or so Internet Service Providers (ISPs). The problem is that the quality wasn’t satisfactory and so we have to streamline the sector. The licenses of BBCom and Glo have been withdrawn. In the context of restructuring the sector, the existing entities (Libercom, Benin Telecom Services and Benin Telecom Infrastructures) will be liquidated. A new mobile operator will be approved to strengthen investments in the sector. Benin Telecom Services internet and landline telephony activities will be sold to a private operator. Benin Telecom Infrastructures’ healthy assets and BTS’s fixed-line infrastructure will be transferred to a state-owned asset management company, under a management contract with a private partner.
Has work started on the remaining structures?
We’re redefining the specifications to have a clear plan to work to. ISPs were previously required to have a national presence, which is not reasonable given their size.We will give them areas in which they have to be present, so that we have at least two ISPs per region. The specifications will be ready in a few weeks. We are waiting for the promulgation of the Digital Code before starting discussions with mobile operators.The national coverage requirement will be maintained in 2G, but not 3G and 4G. Here too, areas will be allocated to them, so that investments are spread over the entire country.
This article first appeared in the June 2018 print edition of our Investing in Benin Guide