September 27th, 2021

Digital Malawi Project to benefit from CTO’s Universal Service Fund Framework

The Public Private Partnership Commission (PPPC) of Malawi contracted the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation (CTO) in April of 2019 to develop a Universal Service Fund Framework as part of the Digital Malawi Project funded by the World Bank. The Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) was responsible for overseeing the project.

The Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation (CTO)’s core functions include technical assistance, research and consultancy in digital development through its Technical Support and Consultancy (TSC) Division.  The work of the TSC covers all aspects of ICT from policy and regulations to cybersecurity and ICT-enabled development. The CTO is committed to supporting digital transformation in the Commonwealth and beyond.

Malawi, a Southern Africa, landlocked country is 45,747 square miles, and according to World Bank data in 2020, has an estimated population of 19,129,955[1]. A least developed country, Malawi’s economy is based on the agricultural sector. There are few resources to build efficient fixed-line telecommunications infrastructure. One of its biggest connectivity challenges is that most of the population live in rural or remote communities. The project sought to develop a Universal Service Fund framework to enable the Government of Malawi to extend ICT connectivity to the unconnected and underserved rural and remote communities.

The main objectives of the project included the assessment and analysis of existing communication gaps in Malawi, both geographical and functional; the development of USF guidelines and operating procedures and the formulation of an action plan, procurement documents and mechanisms for funding pilot projects. In addition, recommendations were made for optimal technical solutions for closing the communication gaps in Malawi.

On completion of the project in July 2021, the outputs of the project delivered to MACRA, included an ICT Market Access Gap Study and a five-year Universal Service Strategy which will aid MACRA’s effort to address ICT accessibility gaps.

According to MACRA’s Head of Universal Service Fund (USF) Emily Lungu “The drafting of the strategic plan means that over 720,000 Malawians will be connected to the broadband access and services, 1,300 institutions to Wi-Fi access, 470 institutions will be connected to electricity and over 94% of Malawians to television signal.“[2]

The CTO is pleased to have contributed to the Digital Malawi Project and will continue to support Malawi and its other Member Countries with their digital transformation programmes.

[1]  World Bank
[2] Lack of connectivity is costing Malawi, By Michael Malakata, ITWeb’s Zambian correspondent.