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If your ascent of Africa’s highest mountain isn’t Instagrammed, did it even happen?
Adventurers can now upload their climbs to share in real time with family, friends and supporters after Tanzania’s Ministry of Information moved this week to install high-speed internet in the area.
“Today on top of Kilimanjaro: I’m taking high-speed INTERNET COMMUNICATIONS (BROADBAND) to the ROOF OF AFRICA”, tweeted Tanzania’s Minister of Information and Communications, Nape Moses Nnauye. “Tourists can now communicate worldwide from the top of Kilimanjaro.”
At an event Tuesday about 12,450 feet (3,795 meters) above sea level, flanked by officials and international tourists, Nnauye announced that the state-owned Tanzania Telecommunications Corp. provided high-speed internet is now available for everyone.
plans too extend the coverage to Uhuru Peak, 19,291 feet (5,880 meters) above sea level, are in effect until the end of the year, he added.
“It used to be a bit dangerous for visitors and porters who had to work without internet,” Nnauye said, according to AFP. “All visitors will be connected … (up to) this point of the mountain,” he added, speaking from Horombo Huts campsite on the mountainside.
Nnauye also requested that State Internet Provider to expand operations to other off-grid tourist spots and national parks.
The move was welcomed by some in Tanzania as a boost for the tourism industry, but by others mocked the government on social media for failing to provide better internet access in remote villages and towns and improving services in commercial centers.
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Tourism is vital to Tanzania’s economy, accounting for about US$1.4 billion in revenue in 2021, nearly 6 percent of gross domestic product. The industry is still recovering from the coronavirus pandemic, which brought global travel to a halt.
Standing as tall as about 13 Empire State Buildings, Mount Kilimanjaro is a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is also the largest free-standing volcanic mass on earth and its snow-capped peak attracts visitors to Tanzania from all over the world. Thousands of tourists try to climb Kilimanjaro annually and it takes about a week to climb the majestic mountain.
The rollout of the internet is part of a broader government project called the National ICT Broadband Backbone, which is partially supported by China. Beijing has long sought to fund and develop communications and other infrastructure in the East African nation, and China’s ambassador to Tanzania, Chen Mingjian, tweeted their support on Tuesday for the Kilimanjaro project.
Earlier this month, during a tour of the continent, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken unveiled the Biden administration’s strategy for developing partnerships to help African nations reduce their dependency on foreign aid and address challenges like climate change. The boost comes as China pumps money into Africa in the form of loans and investments, and sends arms and mercenaries to Russia.
“The United States will not dictate Africa’s decisions, and neither should anyone else,” Blinken said in an address at South Africa’s University of Pretoria. “The right to make these decisions belongs to Africans, and only to Africans.”
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Tanzania’s government has sparked an uproar in recent years after announcing plans for a cable car system on the south face of Kilimanjaro to increase tourist numbers and give access to those unable to climb it. Expedition groups, porters who help mountaineers and climate experts said the project would endanger the mountain’s delicate ecosystem and harm the local economy.
Earlier this month, climate experts warned that Africa’s national parks, home to thousands of wildlife species, are increasingly threatened by below-average rainfall, prolonged drought and large-scale infrastructure projects that are hampering conservation efforts.