( AFP ) - Africa will receive investment worth 55 billion dollars (38 billion euros) to boost its goal of securing universal Internet access by 2012, the International Telecommunication Union said Wednesday.
The international commitments were made at the two-day "Connect Africa" summit that ended in Rwandan capital on Tuesday, with a pledge to speed up technology in the continent, the ITU said in a statement.
The ITU and African Development Bank jointly vowed to cooperate in connecting all African capitals and major cities with a broadband infrastructure and strengthen connectivity to the rest of the world by 2012.
The pair will invest at least 300 million dollars (207 million euros) in ICT projects in five years and further mobilise more partners and funds.
"By 2015, broadband and ICT (information and communication technology) services will be extended to all African villages," the statement said.
Six African heads of state and technology experts agreed at the conference that Africa, the world's most marginalised continent, should get universal Internet access to aid development.
" Africa is open for business," said Hamadoun Toure, secretary general of the ITU, that organised the conference with support from international bodies including the African Union and the United Nations.
The UN telecom group urged governments to work towards cross-border integration in large-scale projects.
"With the entrepreneurial spirit of the African private sector working with their international partners, the support of the international community and the commitment from governments, universal connectivity in Africa is no longer a utopian dream," said Sha Zukang, Under Secretary General for the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, in Wednesday's statement.
Mobile telephony in Africa overtook fixed lines in 2001 and now outnumbers them by nearly seven to one, with nearly 193 million mobile cellular subscribers in 2006.
This figure is projected to grow to more than 270 million by the end of this year, according to GSM Association, which plans to invest 50 billion dollars over the next five years and provide mobile coverage to more than 90 percent of the population.
Currently less than four percent of Africans have Internet access whilst the rate of broadband penetration barely reaches one percent, according to the ITU.
According to the World Bank, the cost of connecting to the Internet in Africa is the highest in the world, at some 250-300 dollars (175-210 euros) per month.