Connecting 1 Billion Customers

Why is everybody talking about Africa, and its present as well as proposed connectivity? Eckhard Bruckshen investigates, one coast after another.

Each week during the past year, submarine cables connecting Africa both domestically and internationally have been on the agenda during every major conference, government meeting as well as classified conclave. Rumours of big systems encircling the continent were, in fact, the “big issue” of discussion, and it was even partially revealed in the Wall Street Journal.

So, what makes Africa—a continent which will soon reach a staggering population of 1 billion—a hotbed of intrigue? They want to be connected to the outside world and participate in the boom of the “always connected” industry.

To understand further, we delve deep into the status of Africa with respect to submarine cable connectivity that can be divided into the North, West and East. 

First, let’s take a look at the North coast:

Countries part of the North of Africa (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt), although not connected with each other, are connected to other countries via the following systems: 

  • Morocco: Canalink; Atlas Offshore; Sea-Me-We 3; Estepona – Tetouan.
  • Algeria: ORVAL; Med Cable Network; ALPAL-2; Sea-Me-We 4; TE North/TGN-Eurasia/SEACOM/Alexandros/Medex.
  • Tunisia: Sea-Me-We 4; Didon; Hannibal; Trapani – Kelibia.
  • Libya: EIG; Italy – Libya; LFON; Silphium.
  • Egypt: Africa-1 (planned); AAE-1; EIG; MENA; PEACE (planned); Sea-Me-We 5; TE North/TGN-Eurasia/SEACOM/Alexandros/Medex.

The Northern region of Africa is apparently very well-connected to Europe and other international systems with the direction towards Asia. Only Egypt is obtaining increased connectivity with future systems (if these systems will be realized). There are, of course, other cables in the pipeline, which have been mentioned in boardrooms or at conferences, but nothing is revealed so far in the form of maps or routing. Facebook, for example, is planning to install one of their Simba systems in the Mediterranean. The system, to be called Simba Medconnect (originally called Simba North), will involve Libya and Egypt representing the North.

Meanwhile, Google’s project Equiano is likely to connect Morocco on the West coast of Africa to its system (Portugal – South Africa). But a connection agreement for this project is pending. Also, an interconnection of the Northern African states is not planned at this moment, but it remains as a foreseeable suggestion. Some further connectivity to Morocco and Algeria could come from the Octopus Cable System planned by Sunil Tagare, if accomplished.

Eckhard Bruckschen, Managing Director/Editor Subcablenews Ltd.

Let’s now have a look at the West coast:

The West coast of Africa has seen considerable activity in recent years, but there are a number of countries that need to be covered and included. Nevertheless, here’s the current state of its connectivity and what may transpire for the future:

  • Morocco: Canalink; Atlas Offshore; Sea-Me-We 3; Estepona – Tetouan. And a possible connection to Equiano system.
  • Western Sahara: No cable connection.
  • Mauritania: ACE; Ella Link (planned).
  • Madeira: CAM-Rin; Ella Link (planned).
  • Canary Islands: TRANSCAN-3; SAT-3; Canalink; WACS; ACE; Atlantis-2; PenCan-8; PenCan-9; Subcan Link 1; Subcan Link 2; Equiano (planned).
  • Senegal: ACE; SAT-3; Atlantis-2; MainOne; Project Koete (planned).
  • Cabo Verde: Cabo Verde Telecom Domestic Submarine Cable Phase 1, 2 & 3; Atlantis-2; “Ella Link” (planned); WACS.
  • The Gambia; Guinea Bissau; Guinea; Sierra Leone and Liberia: ACE (one landing in each country).
  • Côte d’Ivoire: ACE; SAT-3; MainOne; WACS.
  • Ghana: ACE; SAT-3; MainOne; WACS; Glo-1.
  • Togo: WACS.
  • Benin: ACE; SAT-3.
  • Nigeria: Glo-1; Glo-2 (planned); ACE; MainOne; NCSCS; SAT-3; WACS; Equiano (planned).
  • Cameroon: SAT-3; WACS; ACE; Ceiba-2; NCSCS; SAIL.
  • Equatorial Guinea: Ceiba-1; Ceiba-2; ACE; Mandji FO cable
  • Sao Tome and Principe: ACE (planned); Ultramar GE.
  • Gabon: ACE (planned); Libreville – Port Gentil Cable; SAT-3.
  • Republic of the Congo: WACS.
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo: ACE (planned); WACS; Adones.
  • Angola: SAT-3; ACE (planned); SACS; WACS; Adones.
  • Namibia: ACE (planned); WACS.
  • South Africa (West Coast): WACS;  ACE (planned);  SAFE; SAT-3; Equiano (planned);  SABR (planned);  SAEx1 (planned); SAEx2 (planned).

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