Sierra Leone: Africell Network Expansion

The Grantee invites submission of qualifications and proposal data (collectively referred to as the “Proposal”) from interested U.S. firms that are qualified on the basis of experience and capability to execute a feasibility study that would support the building of a 1,600 kilometer fiber backbone network nationwide and the complementary expansion of fixed broadband, including fiber or fixed wireless, networks in up to 32 cities and towns (the “Project”) located in the Republic of Sierra Leone (the “Host Country”). The submission deadline is October 31, 2023 at 11:59 p.m. Sierra Leone Local Time/ at 3:59 p.m. EDT with deadline for questions on October 2, 2023, 3:00 p.m., EDT. The U.S. firm selected will be paid in U.S. dollars from a $866,000 grant to the Grantee from the U.S. Trade and Development Agency.

Project Background
There are two primary elements involved in the implementation of Africell Sierra Leone Limited’s (“Africell SL”) expansion plans and the Project: nation-wide fiber backbone ring and fixed broadband access networks. Africell SL plans to construct a 1,600 kilometer fiber backbone ring connecting most of the major cities in Sierra Leone. The backbone ring would provide backhaul capacity for Africell SL’s new access networks, and it would also sell wholesale bandwidth on the ring to other mobile network operators (“MNOs”) as well as internet service providers (“ISPs”). Building on its pilot deployments in Freetown, Africell SL plans to expand its fiber to the home (“FTTH”) in other regions of Sierra Leone and also explore options to implement fixed wireless solutions.

About the Grantee
Since beginning operations in 2005, Africell SL has become one of the primary MNOs operating in the country, claiming approximately 60% market share in mobile service. Since 2012, it has grown its subscriber base from 1.6 million to over 4.3 million. Africell SL was the first MNO to launch 3G (2011) and 4G (2018) service in Sierra Leone and has achieved 88% coverage of populated areas. Currently, Africell SL’s offerings are mobile service, high-capacity enterprise broadband, and FTTH. FTTH is Africell SL’s newest product offering, with an initial one-year pilot project that witnessed the enrolment of over 400 residential and commercial customers between May 2022 and May 2023, covering a targeted addressable area of Freetown, Sierra Leone. Based on the favorable performance of the pilot, Africell SL made significant investment in infrastructural expansion that has led to a rapid growth of the current customer base to over 800. The Project represents Africell SL’s growth initiative for fixed broadband service in Sierra Leone over the next decade, with the potential to significantly increase its operations, expand internet connectivity outside of Freetown, and ultimately offer higher value-added services to customers.

About the Study
The objective of the Study is to assess the economic and technical viability of expanding Africell SL’s existing telecommunications network to increase internet access throughout the country. The Study would include an analysis of consumer demand for fixed broadband service considering topography, demography, and income, as well as a supply analysis of existing infrastructure such as available tower, backhaul, and backbone infrastructure provided by competitors or that may be complementary. The Study would also recommend whether last-mile access networks in up to 32 cities and towns should be built using fiber and/or fixed wireless technologies. Finally, the Study would include a financing plan, a legal and regulatory analysis, a U.S. sources of supply analysis, a development impact assessment, and a Project implementation plan.

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Sierra Leone: Africell Network Expansion

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