The International Finance Corp, the private sector arm of the World Bank Group, has approved a $32.5m investment in the East Africa Submarine cable system (EASSY) project, designed to connect 21 African countries to each other and the rest of the world.

Government officials and industry insiders hope the cable will transform the communications landscape in the region, improving access for 250 million Africans and substantially reducing telecom costs for consumers and businesses.

Despite recent growth in Africa's telecom connectivity, several barriers remain before reaching affordable international communications and Internet services, according to Mohsen Khalil, the IFC's director of global Information and communication technologies.

Eassy is expected to be operational by 2009. It will first link East Africa countries to the rest of the world through undersea fibre-optic cable, before connecting other regions of the continent.