Africa's access to the internet is set to explode with the advent of several underwater sea cables all across the continent. As discussed in February, Globacom's submarine cable is soon to go active this year and will increase Nigeria's internet capacity as well as that of Ghana and other West African nations. But nations in Southern, Eastern and Northern Africa are on the verge of increased internet capacity as well.
Originating in France with an original African landing point of Egypt, the SEA Cable System (SEACOM), a 15,000 km fiber optic cable, will increase broadband access in southern and eastern Africa. It is a privately funded venture, with more than 3/4 owned by Africans. Scheduled to go live in June 2009 so as to assist with the broadcasting requirements for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, it "will assist communication carriers in south and east Africa through the sale of wholesale international capacity to global networks via India and Europe."
The East African Submarine Cable System (EASSy) will increase broadband access Southern Africa but will also connect to other landlocked African countries including Sudan in the northern part of the continent. Specifically, EASSY "will have landing points in Port Sudan, Djibouti, Mogadishu (Somalia), Dar Es Salaam (Tanzania), Toliary (Madagascar), Maputo (Mozambique), and Mtunzini in South Africa's KwaZulu-Natal province."
There is also the East Africa Marine System (TEAMS). The Kenyan government, ETISALAT, Alcatel-Lucent and a host of others are co-owners of this fiber optic cable with landing points in Fujairah, UAE and Mombasa, Kenya. Alcatel-Lucent insists that this cable will be completed mid-2009
But in addition to these cables are the Main One cable which is funded by private investors from Nigeria (linking Portugal to South Africa with landing ports along West Africa), the Middle East North Africa Project (linking Egypt to various Middle Eastern and Mediterranean countries) and the West Africa Cable System (due in 2011; linking Cape Town to the U.K. via 10 other countries).
These various cables reflect a growing demand for better and more affordable access to the internet and related products by African business and individuals. When the Globacom underwater cable (serving Western Africa) and these other cables come online this year and in the next couple of years, the benefits to millions on the continent will be exponential. A hitherto voiceless continent will have more ways to speak for itself and tell its own stories of success and achievement instead of the constant stereotypical messages currently shared. In fact, an AfricaNext research report estimates that by 2010 the African continent will reach a 'tipping point' in broadband services that will "lead to drastic increase in adoption and revenue generation." These continue to be interesting times for the African continent and her people. The possibilities, despite the obvious challenges, remain endless.
 - List of TEAMS owners is available here.
UPDATE (7/29/09): Seacom has launched.
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