By Sallieu Tejan Jalloh :
President Ernest Bai Koroma yesterday 10th October scored yet another milestone goal in the history of Sierra Leone when he officially hooked the country to the under-sea fibre optic cable that could transform its socio-economic landscape forever.
Speaking at the ceremony, the Head of State noted that the Information Communications Technology sector operated via satellite transmission is very much expensive with limited quality, capacity and coverage; adding that with the landing of the fibre optic cable, all of the encountered problems will be addressed and Sierra Leoneans will begin to enjoy affordable, cheapest, reliable, and effective communication facilities.
President Koroma revealed that the fibre optic transformation came through the African Coast to Europe (ACE) project by which he engaged the private sector and the World Bank. He said the process was kick-started with the setting up of the Sierra Leone Cable Company (SALCAB) which is 100% government-owned, adding that with the landing and subsequent operationalising of the fibre optic cable more employment opportunities will be created in the country.
“Sierra Leone will be opened to the international gateway and will guarantee lots of opportunities that will serve as catalysts for development in various sectors like health, education, and agriculture,” President Koroma informed the audience who responded with thunderous applause, adding that it will also help to reduce the cost of doing business and attract more investments in the country.
“The landing of the fibre optic cable is indeed a great moment in our country’s history and government now has plans to liberalize the country’s national gateway through a program that will be championed by the Minister of Information and Communications, Alhaji Ibrahim Ben Kargbo,” His Excellency maintained, while commending the Minister for championing the project from its initiation to the present moment.
The climax of the occasion was when President Koroma moved to receive and landed the cable. He was accompanied be the Vice President, the Information Minister and other high profiled personalities.
The occasion was marked by fanfare and jubilation at the landing station at Lumley Beach in Freetown, four nautical kilometers from where the ship carrying the transformational cable had docked.
Experts say the landing of the submarine cable can only be a blessing to the already booming economic prospects of the country at a time when investors are clogging to pour in their resources. “Reducing the prices of mobile phone top-ups is in itself a stunner; getting easy access to the internet is by itself a winner; but the fact that the fibre connection comes with the potential of thousands of employment opportunities especially for young people is a mesmerizing success. Sierra Leone is in for a jolly ride to eminence and prosperity. And it could not have been an accident that it is happening under the astute leadership of President Koroma. This is historic. Such events don’t come often,” an ICT specialist told The Torchlight at the ceremony.
It is well known that the leading nations in Africa, including Rwanda and Ghana, have registered success stories primarily because of their early access to the fibre optic cable.
Deputy Information Minister Sheka Tarawalie, who missed the ceremony to attend ICT-related sub-regional meetings in Ghana, Ivory Coast and Senegal, was also upbeat. “We are focused and determined to put our country on the international map. It is victory for Sierra Leone; it is a great reward for the efforts of the President to implement the Agenda for Change.” He said they will now assiduously work towards the terrestrial backbone connection that will interconnect cities, towns and villages not only within Sierra Leone but also with Liberia and Guinea through the Ecowan project. “We are on target; and by early to mid 2012, we would be realizing the full benefits of this fibre optic connection,” he said.
President Koroma recently made history in the United States when he was selected to sit next to US President Barack Obama at a United Nations luncheon. The stock market’s NASDAQ bell was also rung on his behalf in New York, another history for the President and Sierra Leone.