The Central African Republic now has a fully equipped and operational digital training center thanks to support from the African Development Bank. Bank Vice-President Marie-Laure Akin Olugbade (in yellow in the background) visited the facility in March 2023.

Young people in the Central African Republic can now enter the digital professions thanks to fibre-optic capacities installed with AfDB and EU support

The two-storey building in downtown Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic (CAR), has a futuristic air. First impressions don’t deceive: inside, a fully equipped digital training centre is tailor-made for online courses. The up-to-date equipment includes a digital printer to make prototypes of students’ designs.

“This is a multi-purpose, multi-skill centre for 50 students, built and equipped with funding from the African Development Bank. It puts professionals in touch with learners to help build the human resource capacity, which the Central African Republic needs. The cutting-edge technology here means that the spaces can be used as classrooms for distance learning, tele-medicine rooms or tele-education rooms,” explains Gauthier Guezewane, project manager and technical expert for the CAR component of the Central African Fibre-optic Backbone Project.

Mr Guezewane jis clearly proud of his project, saying, “This is a project that offers integration. It connects the Central African Republic to Cameroon and Congo. It also includes a major infrastructure component – we have built the country’s first digital training centre, teaching digital professions that are seriously underrepresented in Central Africa’s workforce.”

The Central African Fibre-optic Backbone Project, initiated in 2018, is supported by three grants: one for 17 million euros from the European Union, another for 13 million euros from the African Development Fund — the concessional arm of the African Development Bank Group — and a third grant of 4 million euros from the AfDB Transition Support Facility.

By installing terrestrial optical interconnections with Cameroon and neighbouring Congo, the project will put an end to the CAR’s digital isolation, nurturing the emergence of a truly digital economy in this country set in the heart of Africa. The CAR will also benefit from better access to digital training and a much-improved digital ecosystem. These advances will be backed by a newly created Central African Digital Development Agency, an offshoot of the project’s coordination unit, which will serve as the executive arm of the CAR government for implementing the sectoral and targeted strategies associated with the project.

At its completion in September 2023, the project had installed the first national fibre-optic backbone – a 900-km stretch of fibre-optic cable with 11 technical sites along its route, a network operations centre in Bangui, and two digital community centres. Other outcomes include a strategic framework for developing the national fibre-optic backbone and studies on the taxation model for the CAR’s digital sector, promotion of digital financial services and the creation of national digital identification system.

Some of these studies are being used by technical and financial partners in the Central African Republic to set up new projects. The study devoted on promoting digital financial services is proving useful to the World Bank for a project to support the digitalisation of technical services at the CAR’s Finance and Budget Ministry, and studies for a national digital identification system are being used in a project financed by the European Union to introduce digital identity.

Infrastructure work associated with fibre-optic installation has created jobs for 4000 young people in districts along the cable route. The project will also createa large number of permanent jobs, directly or indirectly, thanks to positive externalities of digital technology in society and the economy in the CAR.

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