Cape Town - The Western Cape has secured grant funding from the US government worth R20 million for a feasibility study to expand broadband infrastructure for half a million people in the Western Cape.
The deal between the US Trade and Development Agency and the provincial government was inked on Tuesday morning at a ceremony in Cape Town.
The funds will be used to help the Western Cape government find solutions to bridge the digital divide and strengthen internet access in marginalised and rural communities.
Speaking at the signing ceremony, US Consul General Todd Haskell said his government supported the province’s bid to expand broadband infrastructure as a way to create economic opportunities and promote mutual prosperity.
“Our commitment to these goals ensures that the United States is the top foreign direct investor in the province and the province’s top export market with over $1.5 billion (R23.9 billion) in bilateral trade annually,” Haskell said.
The study will assess the economic and technical viability of deploying new broadband infrastructure across the province, as well as potential ownership and operations models for future broadband deployments.
It will advance the Western Cape’s goal of connecting each town and village in the province to affordable high-speed broadband networks.
Premier Alan Winde said that improving broadband access, particularly in the Western Cape’s most disconnected communities, is a real enabler of growth, and the feasibility study will guide the province on how best to achieve this.
“It is my hope that this investment will one day soon deliver greater ease for entrepreneurs to create and build their businesses, for job-seekers to pursue opportunities and work, and for learners to be able to study and thrive at school, and I look forward to receiving the final product.”
Winde said the signing of the agreement was further testament to the strong bilateral relationship between the Province and its US counterparts.
The project is part of an USTDA initiative called Access Africa, which is meant to advance the development of “inclusive, secure, and sustainable ICT infrastructure across Africa”.
Access Africa itself is part of the US government’s Prosper Africa initiative to substantially increase two-way trade and investment between the US and Africa.
USTDA’s Director Enoh T. Ebong said the agency was proud to expand its portfolio of activities in a way that advanced South Africa’s digital transformation goals.
“Under our Access Africa initiative, USTDA is working with partners such as the Western Cape government to support planning for the deployment of critical broadband infrastructure.”