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Bridging the divide in Burkina Faso: How tech is changing lives

Bridging the divide in Burkina Faso: How tech is changing lives

The World Bank project is helping to strengthen digital infrastructures

Technology is playing an important role in improving the lives of some of the poorest members of the population in Burkina Faso. Intelligent CIO explores some of these technologies – from improved digital infrastructure to Blockchain and innovative new farming tools – which are helping to bridge the digital divide in the west African country.

World Bank works to improve digital infrastructure

A project to improve the digital infrastructure in Burkina Faso is continuing to make progress.

Back in April, the World Bank approved a US$20 million International Development Association (IDA) credit for Burkina Faso to expand the geographical coverage of broadband networks and reduce the costs of communication services in the country.

This credit complemented the US$19.4 million already allocated to the West Africa Regional Communications Infrastructure Project (WARCIP) in 2011 that centred around improving international connectivity via a fibre optic network linking Ouagadougou to the Ghanaian border, as well as creating a public-private partnership to operate related telecommunications infrastructure.

This additional financing will further this plan and help strengthen regional integration through a connection with Benin.

“With these additional funds, officials in Burkina Faso will be able to strengthen digital infrastructures to improve international connectivity. This will help extend Internet coverage to the entire country while providing higher quality services to residents at a lower cost. This is an essential step for the development of the digital economy and e-government initiative, which has received support from the World Bank-financed e-Burkina Project,” said Charles Hurpy, World Bank Task Team Leader.

“This additional WARCIP-Burkina Faso funding should help improve the quality of the internet network both domestically and between Burkina Faso and the rest of the world. We are also hopeful that these resources will help bring down regional and international connectivity costs,” said Cheick Kanté, World Bank Country Manager for Burkina Faso.

The World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA) helps the world’s poorest countries. Established in 1960, it provides grants and low to zero-interest loans for projects and programs that boost economic growth, reduce poverty, and improve poor people’s lives. IDA is one of the largest sources of assistance for the world’s 75 poorest countries, 39 of which are in Africa.

Resources from IDA bring positive change to the 1.5 billion people who live in IDA countries. Since 1960, IDA has supported development work in 113 countries. Annual commitments have averaged about US$18 billion over the last three years, with about 54% going to Africa.

Charles Hurpy, World Bank Task Team Leader, spoke to Intelligent CIO to outline some of the biggest benefits of the project.

What have been the implications of the World Bank’s approval of a US$20 million IDA credit to improve connectivity?

You are referring to an additional financing of an existing project. This original project has produced concrete outcomes (a fibre optic network to connect to Ghana, a virtual landing station etc).

The additional financing aims to scale-up these efforts, in order to reduce international connectivity prices and ultimately retail prices of Internet. The vision is one of country connected directly to all his neighbours and with a virtual landing station operated by a public-private partnership that guarantees open, non-discriminatory and transparent access to affordable international connectivity landing in the country.

Why is the expansion of geographical coverage of broadband networks so important for Burkina Faso?

This is important to bring the benefits of internet (economic, social) to as many people as possible and mitigate the risks of a ‘digital divide’ within the population. Poor, remote and sparsely populated areas are typically poorly covered or not covered at all by private operators, and this type of project is needed to compensate for this gap. The bank’s mission is to end extreme poverty and boost shared prosperity. We believe that increasing coverage of broadband networks contributes to these twin goals

Why is it important to strengthen regional integration through a connection with Benin?

Regional integration improves communications, trade and services flows. This contributes to regional economic growth, improved resilience to crisis, exchanges of goods, services, capital, ideas, etc. A connection with Benin would complete the digital integration of Burkina Faso, since links already exist with all the other neighbours.

What are the main benefits of strengthening digital infrastructure in Burkina Faso and other similar nations?

In a nutshell, digital infrastructure is the first building block, as this brings access to digital services. Without access, nothing happens. Then comes conducive policy and regulatory environment to foster competition and encourage private investment. This helps having affordable digital services. This project will have impacts on both. The next steps are developing services and increasing usages.

What stage is the project at?

The original project is finishing up (the inauguration of the infrastructures was held on July 10 with the prime minister). Everything is operational.

The additional financing has been approved by the board of the World Bank on April 25 and should become effective by the end of August. We are doing preparation work at this point.

Burkina Faso to benefit from Blockchain

Blockchain is widely considered to be one of today’s most disruptive technologies – and it is now accessible in Burkina Faso.

ModulTrade has created a foundation for the launch of ModulTrade Blockchain based smart-contract platform in the African continent after signing agreements with leading financial and logistic organisations and meeting with an Ambassador of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Baikov.

Leading logistics company SIMAT, and SERFIN, one of the key players in financial services and a representative of Western Union in Côte d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso, will both benefit from using ModulTrade products; ModulTrade Market and the ModulTrade Wallet, working on the ModulTrade Blockchain currency, MTRc.

Having already signed deals in China with successful adoption and use of ModulTrade applications, the move into Africamarks a pivotal change in a market where there are more smartphone users than those with bank accounts.

One of the key benefits ModulTrade provides is taking the full trade cycle online. Trade can now be executed through smartphones, tablets or desktop, with smart-contracts ensuring trusted transactions between both buyer and seller.

ModulTrade CEO, Evgeny Kaplin, said: “With more people in Africa owning smartphones than bank accounts (15% of the population have bank accounts while access to smartphones and cell phones is at 70%), the user base for blockchain technology is real. Access to traditional banking systems is not straight forward and processes can prove to be lengthy and costly.

“Blockchain technology provides a newfound opportunity where anyone can make payments quickly, securely and cost-effectively. ModulTrade, the Blockchain based global trade platform, built on Blockchain technology, is directly available in Burkina Faso.

“Together with our partners from West Africa – SERFIN, SIMAT, ANOPACI and Trade Association and our main instruments, MT Market and MT Wallet, we will allow locals to trade between different markets and make transactions using MTRc – the native ModulTrade token.

“By providing such digital tools, businesses of any size and individuals of Burkina Faso face an exciting prospect of growth. It also supports the regions financial development and connects locals to other markets, which may not have been otherwise possible.”

SIMAT will benefit from the ModulTrade Market’s capability of cross-market trading, and the delivery of goods around the world. This partnership will open the doors for MSMEs who have before struggled to export and import through traditional trade flows.

The partnership with SERFIN will see ModulTrade’s Wallet added to 800 outlets as a choice for money transfer and payment, and the ModulTrade Market a secure trade platform for SEFIN’s clients – the MSMEs.

Further to SERFIN and SIMAT, discussions are in place with other businesses, of which partnerships will be announced in due course. Current partnerships will commence with a pilot from July.

 iDE Global – working with the farming community

iDE has been working to increase incomes and improve the health of rural households by creating business opportunities in agriculture and sanitation.

The company works with smallholder farmers in rural areas of Burkina Faso helping them improve farming productivity and to access local markets where they can sell their harvest at a profit.

The technologies promoted to smallholders includes drip irrigation, water storage and solar pumps.

iDE entered Burkina Faso in 2011 to create a sustainable supply chain for drip irrigation kits and other irrigation technologies and have already facilitated the sale of over 4,000 drip kits to date. The impact has been significant – enabling farmers to plant up to three crop cycles a year – and agricultural production has significantly improved.

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