By Jenny Clover
KIGALI (Reuters) - Rwanda on Monday signed a deal with South Korea's largest telecoms provider KT Corp to roll out high-speed 4G Internet to most of its citizens within three years.
Rwanda, a landlocked central African state and one of Africa's fastest growing economies,, has laid more than 3,000km of fiber-optic cable since 2009 in a bid to develop a service based economy and become a regional leader in information communication technology (ICT). Critics, however, say almost no large investor has come on board yet.
Rwanda's economy expanded by 9.4 percent in the 2011/2012 fiscal year but only around 8.3 percent of the population have internet access at the moment, according to Rwandan officials.
Rwanda said KT Corp will inject around $140 million into a joint venture company, which will be responsible for rolling out a fast 4G LTE broadband network to 95 percent of Rwandans. Debt and vendor financing will also be needed.
"This agreement with KT marks a major milestone in Rwanda's drive to become a modern, knowledge-based economy - and by expanding our information infrastructure, we will create jobs, support social progress and propel economic growth," Jean Philbert Nsengimana, Rwanda's Minister of Youth and ICT, said in a statement.
Rwanda said the government's equity investment in the joint venture, which has a 25-year term, would consist of using its national fiber optic cable, spectrum and wholesale-only operator license.
Kigali also invited other mobile network operators to invest in the project and provide retail access to 4G LTE wireless broadband services to some 12 million Rwandans.
(Writing By Drazen Jorgic; editing by Patrick Graham and William Hardy)
(Rwanda corrected statement to $140 million not $145 million in paragraph 4)