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Improved connectivity in Africa depends on public-private partnership success

Africa , 07 Sep 2021

A meaningful, focused effort by stakeholders is required for the new 2Africa cable to have any significant impact in Africa, according to industry experts.

The new 2Africa sub-marine cable is a collaboration between China Mobile International, Facebook, MTN GlobalConnect, Orange, Telecom Egypt, Vodafone and WIOCC and it is tipped to be the biggest cable network, with four new branches.

The new branches will increase the cable landings to 35 in 26 countries with a total of 37,000km of fibre and 180Tbps capacity, improving connectivity into- and around Africa.

“It’s encouraging that private investors are taking a leading role in providing this connectivity, but they’ll need to work closely with host governments to get the initial projects off the ground and to ensure longevity,” said Alex Booth, Associate Managing Director at business intelligence company Kroll.

He told ITWeb Africa that that public-private partnerships would work well for the project and that the benefits would be felt throughout the economies of the newly connected nations – if wider policy takes advantage of the opportunities.

“The 2Africa project is likely to bring direct benefits through jobs and contracts, but it’s the potential indirect and long-term impacts which will be key in rebuilding – both public and private actors should be looking to take advantage of the opportunities increased connectivity will bring,” Booth added.

Combined with new technologies such as 4G and 5G, the increased connectivity will have a positive impact on areas like education and healthcare.

For the cables, the inland backbone connectivity is still a challenge to countries. According to the International Finance Corporation (IFC), one kilometre of fibre costs US$30,000. Africa needs 500,000 kilometres to achieve full connectivity at US$15-billion.

Booth believes the development of sub-sea cables and the development of the inland networks should be developed side by side. “There’s also the question of cable landings versus inland infrastructure, but it’s a mistake to see them as separate, in a zero-sum game. They are both closely linked and rely on each other for connectivity and internet penetration, so should be pursued in tandem.”

He added that “At this stage, the very fact of investment and focus on digital infrastructure in Africa is a good thing, and those involved should be looking at how to build on this momentum, rather than lamenting where it has come.”

According to Booth, 2Africa’s connection to Saudi Arabia will improve infrastructure links between Africa and the Middle East.

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