IFC has announced a $30 million equity investment in the West Indian Ocean Cable Company Holding Ltd (WIOCC Group).
WIOCC Group is a leading digital connectivity and infrastructure provider in Africa with the investment meant to improve access to quality broadband internet and data hosting services for homes and businesses in Africa.
The new investment will support WIOCC Group’s continued rollout of terrestrial fiber-optic networks, investment in new subsea cables, and the launch of world-class, open-access core and edge data center infrastructure across the continent.
Digital infrastructure is the backbone of Africa’s internet economy. Ongoing investment in fiber optic networks and data centers 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.
“At IFC, we recognize 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,” said Mohamed Gouled, IFC Vice President of Industries, during a signing ceremony with WIOCC Group today in London. “In the past fiscal year, ending in June 2022, IFC invested $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 $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 Chief Executive Officer. “By decentralizing 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.”
IFC’s digital infrastructure strategy in Africa is aimed at enabling reliable, and affordable connectivity. This includes investing in the growth of independent tower operators, data centers 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 percent of IFC’s digital infrastructure investments were in FCS and IDA countries.
Over the last decade, IFC committed and mobilized more than $7 billion in digital infrastructure and services, with more than $2.5 billion between July 2020 and June 2022. In addition to providing financing, IFC supports investees to improve corporate governance and align environmental and social practices with IFC’s performance standards.