Good news, it seems, for Mauritania’s web surfers as the World Bank has recently announced that fibre broadband will soon be theirs. In announcing their Mauritanian investment, the World Bank did, at least, admit that Mauritania’s Internet has been both expensive and of very poor quality but, as the country is a key hub between the Maghreb and sub-Sahara Africa, better times, they say, are a’coming.
The country now has 1,700 km of strategic fibre optic links, with the cities of Aioum, Atar, Boghé, Choum, Kaédi, Kiffa, Nema. Nouakchott, Rosso and Selibaby all connected and 4G broadband now widely available.
Given that fast Internet connections are essential for economic lift off, this is all good news and the World Bank, even if they say so themselves, are to be congratulated for this investment, which is “essential to the country’s socioeconomic transformation, innovation, and job creation, particularly for women and youth.”
The World Bank tells us that access to broadband Internet services has increased greatly from a baseline of 2 percent to 71 percent, which far exceeded the expected target of 11 percent and 221 localities have now got the priceless gift of a broadband connection. The country’s university networks, incubation hubs, and startups, as well as all other first movers, must be delighted with this not least because it offers the chance of “a substantial increase in available, higher quality job opportunities, as well as increased adoption of digital financial services, such as mobile money platforms and mobile banking”.
Enough of the nonsense. Mauritania is twice the size of Spain, or slightly larger than the US states of Texas and New Mexico combined. Its GDP/cap is $2660, compared to Spain’s $30,100 and $70,250 for the United States. If you really must download Netflix movies, go to the streets of Laredo or the plazas of Barcelona.
Mauritania, in contrast, has long had the world’s most expensive internet costs and the magic wands and press statements of the World Bank cannot change that until overall living standards exponentially improve.
This is not to say that broadband services are not improving in Mauritania. Of course they are, as there is the same thirst on all levels of society for those services there, as there is in Spain, in Texas or anywhere else. But that thirst will not be quenched by self-serving tripe from the World Bank. Rather, it will be satisfied over a longer time frame by Mauritania’s business, government and community leaders working with responsible partners to make the necessary and appropriate investments in the relevant infrastructure. If the World Bank wants to be one of those partners, it should concentrate on getting results, not on releasing self-serving press statements. In the meantime, if you must surf the Net in Mauritania, here and here are its list of hot spots. See you on Facebook (or is it Snapchat?).