Inside Africa’s Internet Fiber Optic Cable Success Story
For the last ten or so years, African countries, the majority of which fall under developing states, have made tremendous efforts to ensure there is adequate internet connectivity, even in rural areas where electricity is inadequate.
Africa remains the least connected continent in the world, according to sources from Connecting Africa
Africa has seen a major rise in subsea cable connectivity in recent years and together with the enhancement of regional and national fiber networks, the continent’s connectivity matrix is making encouraging strides.
Kenya was the first East African country to welcome its first ever fiber optic cable and unveiled a sixth submarine internet cable that promises to offer higher speeds, lower latency, and broader bandwidth.
The launch of the Pakistan and East Africa Connecting Europe came at a time when Kenya’s internet economy is rapidly growing, thanks to digital transformation acceleration occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic.
As demand rises for cloud storage, heavy internet content streaming, e-commerce platforms, e-learning apps, telehealth systems, fintech innovation, and online businesses, the new cable is expected to offer additional broadband to the national fiber backbone network.
South Sudan and Djibouti this November, signed an agreement to lay fiber optic cable from Djibouti through Ethiopia to the capital Juba.
The Ministry of Information, Communication Technology, and Postal Services said the South Sudan Government and Djibouti officials would form a technical team to deliberate on the project after they signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU).
The deal was inked by the Minister of Information Michael Makuei Lueth and senior officials from Djibouti.
Uganda’s National Information Technology Authority (NITA U) points out that; the laying of the Optical Fibre Cable in Phase III has addressed the creation of the alternative route to the undersea cables via Mutukula to Dar es Salaam and the completion of the concentric rings across the country through the implementation of Kyenjojo – Masindi as well as across the Tanzania and Rwanda through Mutukula, Rusumo and back to Katuna to enhance regional connectivity.
“Currently, the Government is implementing the Last Mile Connectivity Project under which 732km of fiber optic cable are being laid to extend the National Data Transmission Backbone Infrastructure (NBI) connectivity to an additional 700 sites. At the end of the Project, the cumulative span of the NBI shall be over 3,156km across 52 Districts and connecting over 1,300 Government Offices and Target User Groups”, reads the NITA statement in part.
According to the latest sources at Paratus Zambia, a pan-African broadband connectivity company, this November announced that it had signed an agreement with Meta to build 90di0 kilometers of fiber optic cable across 10 Zambian cities by the end of 2023.
The demand for connectivity has been accelerating in Africa for several years now, reports Dataxis. Yet, the pandemic between 2020 and 2021 has slowed the progress of fixed internet implementation and broadband penetration remains very low on the regional level, with less than 5 percent of households connected to fixed internet in 2022, and only 1 percent to fiber.
Still, initiatives are multiplying to connect populations to high-speed internet. Dataxis estimates that by 2027, the number of FTTx subscriptions will almost double while xDSL subscriptions will stagnate or even decrease in some countries.
In Sub-Saharan Africa, a two-speed connectivity development is occurring. On the one hand, in the most developed countries, fiber already reached the majority of connected households in 2022.
In general network operators follow a similar pattern across Africa: the first fiber deployments are taking place in the largest cities of the countries, usually in capital cities, and then in the other major towns.
Sources from Relief Web, insinuate that more than 2.5 million people living in remote eastern regions of the Democratic Republic of the Congo will benefit from transformed digital connectivity under new fiber-optic network investment being rolled out by Bandwidth and Cloud Services (BCS) Group and backed by the European Investment Bank (EIB).
The $ 10 million European Investment Bank support, EIB Global first quasi-equity investment, and second cooperation with BCS were formally announced earlier this month at AfricaCom 2022 in Cape Town, South Africa.
“Africa is at a crucial point in the digitization age. The rapid growth of her Telecommunication infrastructure is one of the key factors that will allow the realization of her true potential,” said Yonas Maru, Managing Director, BCS Group.
He added that BCS is excited to be part of Africa’s journey to achieving regional connectivity.
“Our mission is to enable internet access to more than 300 million people in Africa through our infrastructure. Our continued partnership with the EIB will see our company continue to deploy its fiber optic expansion plans to build over 20,000 kilometers across Eastern, Central, and Southern Africa providing regional and rural connectivity by serving underserved areas”, he added.
Thomas Östros, Vice-President of the European Investment Bank said:
“The European Investment Bank is committed to accelerating digitalization across Africa and is pleased to strengthen our partnership with BCS to transform high-speed fiber optic networks in the DRC. Expansion of the fiber optic backbone will enable local communities to benefit from mobile broadband and hospitals and schools to be connected to the rest of the world.”
BCS Group has entered into a long-term funding partnership with the EIB for a further US$10 million. This is part of the EIB’s continued partnership with BCS following a USD18 million funding in late 2018.
According to a World Bank report, Guinea-Bissau’s digital economy is nascent, with low international bandwidth, few public services available online, and limited digital skills among the population, in comparison to many of its neighbors in Western Africa.
The Digital Economy Country Assessment for Guinea-Bissau, developed by the World Bank Group and the Government of Guinea-Bissau, notes that, while many Sub-Saharan African countries are undertaking digital transformations, Guinea-Bissau must step up its efforts to capture a larger share of the dividends of the digital economy.
“Digital transformation is driving increased employment, productivity, and inclusion across the continent. To achieve its ambitious developmental goals, Guinea-Bissau must continue its efforts on reforms and investments to accelerate digital transformation,” said Anne-Lucie Lefebvre, World Bank Resident Representative in Guinea-Bissau.