The African Development Bank (AfDB) recently approved a USD25m loan for the establishment of communication systems and rescue centers along Lake Victoria to improve maritime safety.
The loan will finance the extension of GSM networks and coverage on the lake and the creation of 22 rescue centers in Mwanza (Tanzania), Entebbe (Uganda) and Kisumu (Kenya).
“GSM is by far the most cost effective solution for maritime communications on Lake Victoria and the one that is most likely to be adopted by lake users,” said Enock Yonazi, Project Team Leader at AfDB.
The AfDB notes that this will contribute to saving lives and stimulating business for the benefit of the economy of the entire Lake Victoria basin.
“The project will support the provision of safe, efficient transport links, and safe fishing activities that are essential to achieving the goals of poverty reduction and sustainable development,” said Amadou Oumarou, Director of Transport and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) at AfDB.
Lake Victoria accommodates a fleet of 70,000 vessels, mostly individual fishermen, but lacks any alert or rescue systems. Consequently, as many as 5,000 people die in the lake each year.
At completion, the project is expected to increase the GSM coverage of the Lake from 40% to 80% and mortal accidents are expected to be reduced five-fold.
Lake Victoria is Africa’s largest freshwater fishery. It is shared between Tanzania (51%), Uganda (43%), and Kenya (6%).
The AfDB indicates that Lake Victoria plays a central economic role since it has the largest freshwater fisheries in Africa, providing livelihood for 3 to 4m people around its shoreline.
The maritime routes also represent a great potential for trade and tourism industry. Nevertheless, that potential remains partially untapped due to the lack of a comprehensive navigation and safety system to protect those who use the lake.