Spine challenge: Cameroon loses 7 billion FCFA in funding

(Business in Cameroon) – On May 18th in Yaoundé, during the 9thand At the regular meeting of the Steering Committee of the Central African Backbone (CAB) project, which aims to connect all CEMAC countries by fiber optics, Minister of Posts and Telecommunications (Minpostel) Minette Libom Li Likeng revealed that some activities of this project were cancelled.

This cancellation is a condition imposed by the African Development Bank (AfDB), the main donor, to salvage funding earmarked for the project. Except that Cameroon lost 7 billion FCFA in funds due to this decision. “The cancellation of these activities corresponds to approximately 24% of the amount of the loan agreement, ie more than 7 billion FCFA out of the 30 billion FCFA granted‘ said the minpostel.

Specifically, according to Libom Li Likeng, the configuration of the fiber optic infrastructure has been changed. The construction works for the technical premises to house the active fiber optic equipment and the termination of the related contract have been canceled given the delays observed in the execution of this contract. In addition, the “indoor” solution has been replaced by the implementation of the “outdoor” solution offered by the operator Huawei. 13 other activities, most of which are not being commissioned (no objection from the AfDB) or are to be carried out in the north-west and south-west regions, were also discontinued.

The Minpostel explains that the Backbone project has experienced major disruptions over the past two years that have seriously affected its operations, including due to sluggishness and misunderstandings in the implementation of the project. The inconveniences relate to the management of requests for non-complaints; the difficulties in managing the project staff throughout 2020 and the delay in hiring the procurement specialist, resulting in non-compliance with the project’s procurement plan and annual work plan.

The other major disruptions that have occurred are: the Covid-19 pandemic, which has led to several suspensions of the execution of several contracts, the systematic postponement of the work of procurement commissions, as well as the delay in the execution of certain contracts; Uncertainty in the North-West and South-West regions, resulting in a reconfiguration of the entire project with the cancellation of all projects registered in these regions.

Divided into a regional component and national components, the CAB project started in Cameroon in 2016, but only reached its cruising speed in 2018 and especially in 2019. In particular, with the start of fiber optic installation works in the southern Cameroon region of the country for the connection with the Congo and in the eastern region for the connection with the Central African Republic.

Sylvain Andzongo

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