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Cameroon Plans to Grow the National Fibre Backbone and Increase Internet Penetration

The Ministry of Telecommunications has drawn up a digital transformation strategy to promote participation in the digital economy through more comprehensive infrastructure and lower-cost access to both phone services and the internet. While the mobile telecoms sector has boomed, the rollout of fixed line infrastructure remains slow, with the lack of funding for new fibre infrastructure the biggest challenge. The Ministry hopes to counter this by expanding the national fibre backbone from 20,000km to 25,000km but the timetable for the work has not yet been revealed, so the goal appears more an aspiration than a concrete plan. In theory, Cameroon is well connected to global telecoms infrastructure through five subsea fibre optic cables that run from the country to other continents, but much of the existing capacity is unused. According to the International Finance Corporation (IFC), just 30% of the WACS cable capacity and 15% of the SAT3 cable are currently used. However, MTN Global Connect has signed a memorandum of understanding with Camtel to increase cable uptake, “accelerate digital transformation and allow Cameroon to position itself as a digital hub for the region”, the two partners said in a press release. The key to the strategy will be rolling out fibre networks across Cameroon, as about 14m of the population of 25m currently live in areas that are unconnected.