Sierra Leone govt plans to unbundle SALCAB under public-private partnership model

Wednesday 16 September 2020 | 12:37 CET | News

Sierra Leone Cable (SALCAB) is set to be unbundled as a national digital institutional framework, incorporating a national advisory council on digital development to be led by the Presidency, ITWeb reported. SALCAB is a special purpose vehicle to support the country’s telecommunications and enhance access to communications and has been in operation for eight years. ICT minister Mohamed Swarray said unbundling will adapt the company to the public-private partnership model, under the originally agreed terms of a USD 30 million World Bank loan. 

The loan was intended to support the landing of the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) cable in 2012 and lift Sierra Leone from the position of West Africa’s most expensive country for voice and data communication. Acting Director of ICT at the Ministry, Mohammed Jalloh, said SALCAB is currently operating assets of both the ACE cable and the National Fibre Backbone (NFB) at less than 30 percent and 0.05 percent of their capacities respectively, with no incentives to push for optimum performance.

Jalloh said less than 0.05 percent of the USD 33 million NFB infrastructure has been utilised since it was completed in 2014. Together, aggregate losses from expenditure and lack of use are estimated at over USD 4 million. With adequate management attention, NFB can generate revenues of up to USD 500,000 every month compared with about USD20,000 being realised. 

SALCAB is reportedly losing revenue through expenses and from MNOs that currently spend up to USD 700,000 monthly on transmission only, a cost that could be halved if NFB assets are effectively utilised, according to Jalloh. Efficient management could see NFB cash flows pay off ECOWAN and Huawei loans in ten-twelve years while the proposed new NFB management increases the pace of internet access to reach 50 percent of the country in three to five years from the current 17 percent. 


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