Monday, April 13, 2009

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."

Source: SEACOM website

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[1] 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.

[1] - List of TEAMS owners is available here.

UPDATE (7/29/09): Seacom has launched.

Related Articles of Interest:
- Nigeria is Not The Home Of Cyber Crime
- Nigeria's Internet Future
- Number One Regional Telecom Market
- 2009: The Year of African Broadband
- Nigeria Is Home To The World's Largest Cyber Cafe

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17 Curiosities. Add Yours.:

Mola OG said...

I love the sound of this ... The future is bright and looking good...
Thanks for the info SSD!

Hana Njau-Okolo said...

Yes, the possibilites are endless. The key thing will be to make the services affordable within all of the individual countries.

Anonymous said...

Are the African countries already prepared with fiber optic backbone throughout the respective countries? May God help us not to only connect a few cities.

George Araali in UGANDA

Denford said...

Well, I am not sure if SEACOM will have any impact on Zimbabwe. We have an idiot in charge of the ministry, who says he drives around in a Merc because he wants "to show the people that we are in power."

Yet we have guys like Strive Masiyiwa, the owner of Econet, who would be able to marshal resources, both physical and intellectually, to make the short hop from Johannesburg to here.

But he is more interested in women and cars and has not done a day's work since he got in.

Still, I am thrilled to hear three quarters of the ownership is in African hands. We are on our way, Africa is coming back.


@ Mola: This post was written especially for you, as I know you prefer to read positive news from Naija and the continent in general. Unfortunately, my next post won't be this nice. In fact, it might make you very upset with certain people and their attitudes towards the continent...

Just given you a fair warning, my brother. Hope all is well.

@ Mama Shujaa:true. If what i understand, broadband is actually cheaper than the alternitive - interet via Satelite (techies, please correct me if I am wrong). The underwater sea cables mentioned in this post will apparently allow for cheaper internet access for the end users and with all these cables springing up eveywhere, there just might be enough competition to force prices down further particularly in southern Africa where many of these cables have landing points all over the place.

Kenya will be served by TEAMS, EASSy and probably a couple more cables, so they should be fine. BTW, do you have access to some good Tea Masala? I am desperate for some. And some Kenyan tea. Please give me some pointers on how to get my hands on some...

@ George Araali: That is a great question. With regard to Nigeria, the cable will be supported by the necessary cables as Dangote's company Alheri is stringing it up. I am quite sure that a country like SA will have to get everything in place especially as the World Cup is around the corner. I ca't speak for kenya or Uganda or anyother countries unfortunately, but if you truly care to know, send me an email using the 'Contact' button above and if and when I come across the necessary info, I wills end it to you.

Thanks for taking the time to add to the conversation.

@ DEnford: Ouch! Very harsh words for those in charge, Denford and unfortunately I don't have a good word to say in their favor. Since I am still celebrating 'Easter' and have chosen to not say anything un-nice until 12 midnight tonight, I will keep my thoughts to myself, loL!

But, yes, we are on our way, and technology might just be one of many ways to transform the continent we love so much.

Hana Njau-Okolo said...

@SSD: Pole. I have run out of Kenyan tea myself, but I'll keep you in mind when I go home in the next few months. I get my Tea Masala from SHAHI BAZAAR just down the road. For you though, I might make the effort to look for a recipe a friend gave me some time back. After all I am a self-sufficient African woman.

Anonymous said...

Oh this is rich. I have a friend who will go cuckoo over this article
I wonder how the internet capacity is gonna affect the average naija man....are they gonna make internet available at a cheaper and affordable price or no?

Danny Bagucci said...

I am so hoping this is true.. Cos I fully intend to head back to Nigeria for the foreseeable future this October! On the evidence of the past few days, its gong to be an uphill struggle maintaining an active blog life --

Thanks for the Easter wishes... They helped...

Femi B said...

I just love it when theres good news from that side.
How are you? I did not delete your comment oh, maybe it did not save

Zach said...

I'm just curious what the real effects of this will be? Does the continent have the technology and money to spread access to the 'net to all of its people at a reasonable price?

Also, is this all for show or are the people behind these projects committed to their future maintenance as well? I hate to be so negative, but with the number of unstable/corrupt regimes in Africa, I really do hope that this winds up in the hands of the people, and that this development is sustained long-term.

I've added you to both of my blogrolls, feel free to check out my blogs.


The Igbo Academy said...

We totally need broadband internet in Africa. My only worry is that it might (and as much as I hate to say it) become one of those (as we say) "elite" luxuries where the companies charge so much for it that only the upper middle class and beyond will be able to afford it.

Let's hope not. Access to broadband internet will help Nigeria beyond belief.

tobenna said...

Slow internet access in cafes cost us about N100 (less that $1) an hour. That is expensive.
24hours access at home to a slightly faster but not near broadband speed costs between N10,000 and N15,000 (roughly $75) a month.
These are prohibitive price tags.
Lets see what happens after now

Adaeze said...

This is great. Not only the development but what it will do for the people. Like you said, finally the continent will have more ways to speak for it self. Finally.

Anya Posh said...

I'm glad these companies are coming out to service the content but I'm worried about the potential exploitation of the continent from exorbitant prices and poor services. Are they really giving voice to the mass majority of people or a select few in the urban centres? Hmm,...curiosity.

Squiggle said...

That woudl be great ...if and when they actually get it all running.

Anyaposh ...the nature of the service is to start with the most populated areas. its just practical / commercial ! . I live in the UK and its the same story with most services eg mobile phone masts, internet cables etc are all concentrated in areas with a high population

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