The New Partnership for Africa?s Development (NEPAD) has launched an initiative to develop Internet connections linking African countries to one another and to the rest of the world by 2015. NEPAD is a poverty reduction program under the African Union.

The project, called the Broadband Infrastructure Network, will connect east African countries to a communications network stretching from South Africa to Rwanda. A second broadband network will connect Lesotho, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mauritius, Namibia and Madagascar to an undersea cable running along East Africa.

Edmund Katiti is the policy and regulatory advisor for e-Africa Commission, which helps coordinate communication and information technology projects for NEPAD. He says the continent needs to be connected so it can engage in e-commerce, which has made a lot of money in countries like India. He says, ?Currently we can?t do that because we don?t have broadband, and where the broadband is available it is expensive. So we want to make sure that all countries in Africa have access to broadband connectivity and this connectivity is affordable and reaches as many people as possible.?

Katiti says so far eight countries have signed a protocol in Kigali, Rwanda, that supports the effort and gives its conditions and policies. Among those that have signed are South Africa, Malawi, Mauritius and Rwanda. He adds,?The framework aims to develop a pan-African broadband infrastructure and can connect Africa to the rest of the world because most of the Internet content currently resides in Europe and America. So, we need to connect to that.?

Katiti says the challenge for NEPAD is to get as many countries as possible to sign the protocol so Africa can become part of the global economy.