IFC backs WIOCC Group expansion with US$30m investment
World Bank Group member the IFC has announced a US$30-million equity investment in the West Indian Ocean Cable Company Holding Ltd (WIOCC Group) to improve access to quality broadband internet and data hosting services across Africa.
WIOCC said the new investment will support its continued rollout of terrestrial fibre-optic networks, investment in new subsea cables, and the launch of open-access core and edge datacentre infrastructure across the continent.
The company added: “Digital infrastructure is the backbone of Africa’s internet economy. Ongoing investment in fibre optic networks and datacentres will allow increased access to more affordable and higher-speed internet across the African continent, according to eConomy Africa 2020, a report by IFC and Google. This expanded access could yield significant economic gains: a 10 percent increase in mobile broadband penetration in Africa would yield a 2.5 percent increase in GDP per capita, notes a study by the International Telecommunication Union.”
Mohamed Gouled, IFC Vice President of Industries, said, “At IFC, we recognise that there is a critical need for reliable digital infrastructure, which is fundamental to improving the quality of people’s lives and driving business growth. In the past fiscal year, ending in June 2022, IFC invested US$1.3-billion in digital infrastructure, with over half of those investments taking place in Africa’s telecommunications, media, and technology sector. Our partnership with WIOCC Group underscores IFC’s commitment to closing the digital divide in Africa.”
IFC’s equity investment builds on its previous financing to WIOCC Group, in the form of a US$20-million loan issued in 2020 via IFC’s fast-track COVID-19 financing facility, a facility set up to help sustain economies and preserve jobs during the pandemic crisis.
“IFC is a true strategic partner that has been there for us since the start. IFC's role as one of the founding lenders in 2007 was critical in enabling WIOCC Group to grow and thrive. This new investment supports our goal of establishing an integrated, open-access, core-to-edge cloud ecosystem throughout the African continent, underpinned by truly scalable, carrier-neutral, open access, shared infrastructure that delivers high-quality and affordable digital connectivity,” said Chris Wood, WIOCC Group CEO. “By decentralising the cloud and enabling content delivery to the point of use, we are establishing the infrastructure required to expedite successful deployment and adoption of 5G, the Internet of Things and other key developments that will deliver economic growth throughout the 2020s.”
The IFC said its digital infrastructure strategy in Africa is aimed at enabling reliable, and affordable connectivity. This includes investing in the growth of independent tower operators, datacentres and broadband, as well as supporting mobile operators, with an emphasis on supporting expanded connectivity in fragile and conflict situations (FCS) and low-Income International Development Association countries (LIC-IDA).
In the past fiscal year (July 1, 2021–June 2022), 34% of IFC's digital infrastructure investments were in FCS and IDA countries.
“Over the last decade, IFC committed and mobilised more than US$7-billion in digital infrastructure and services, with more than US$2.5-billion between July 2020 and June 2022,” the financial organisation stated.