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The Secretariat for the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the African Development Bank have launched phase one of the Africa Cloud Ecosystem Project, to be financed with a $550,000 grant from the NEPAD Infrastructure Project Preparation Facility Special Fund (NEPAD-IPPF) to support the market analysis and pre-investment study for the project.

The signing ceremony for the project was followed by a workshop for representatives of both institutions; the first step in getting the project off the ground is a market analysis. The regional cloud ecosystem project will contribute to innovation and the development of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises on the continent, by making consumers become better accustomed to online national and cross-border transactions.

African Development Bank Zambia Country Manager Raubil Durowoju noted, “The Africa Cloud Ecosystem project (ACE) will be a first of its kind, laying the foundation to facilitate the African continent to undertake this shift in the key sectors of economy, education, government, agriculture and health, through the provision of a reliable ecosystem of data centers.”

The Africa Cloud Ecosystem project will host a state-of-the-art facility that will offer essential and sustainable digital infrastructure and services to COMESA member states and the entire continent. It is expected to foster regional connectivity and reduce the cost of doing business, while enhancing global competitiveness. The project also aims to provide an affordable, secured, reliable and fast cloud hosting system for Africa.

Speaking on behalf of the Secretary-General of COMESA, Assistant Secretary General, Programmes Kipyego Cheluget, stated, “We at the Secretariat, are fully convinced that the development of the Africa Cloud Ecosystem project will increase the sustainability and viability of information. The Africa Cloud Ecosystem will provide a pivotal way of transitioning Africa’s community into a digital economic community.”

Despite Africa being the second-largest continent after Asia, internet penetration in Africa is the lowest at 20%, versus more than 90% in Europe and North America. Only 22% of Africans live in areas covered by 2G and 3G cellular network coverage and 52% of them do not use digital services due to inadequate access, affordability, digital capabilities, content relevance, cybersecurity and trust issues. With the African Continental Free Trade Agreement now under implementation, ICT centers will play a vital role in connecting production centers to markets in the most efficient and cost-effective ways.

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