Connecting the unconnected

An Outlier Market Is Equiano’s First Undersea Cable Touchpoint In Africa

By  |  March 21, 2022

It was early July 2019 when American tech giant, Google, announced that it would be investing USD 1 B in Africa, fundamentally to bring upended internet connection to the region’s wildly underserved consumer markets. 

The much-referenced commitment eventually led to the unveiling of Equiano, an extensive underwater cable project with which the American bigwig wants to establish a link between Africa and Europe’s respective internet ecosystems. 

According to Google, project Equiano will run from Portugal, circle the westernmost parts of North Africa, cover West Africa, and round up in South Africa. Between the Portugal-South Africa stretch are a few touchpoints or landings, the first of which has been (recently) made in an outlier local market. 

Having already been running from Europe, Equiano’s first docking country in Africa is Togo, one of the lesser-known French-speaking countries bordered by Ghana, Benin Republic, and Burkina Faso, to the west, east, and north respectively. 

Per a release jointly released by Google and the government of Togo, the arrival of Equiano’s cable on the shores of the low-income country will lead to improved internet speeds and affordable access not only for the Togolese but also the neighboring West African markets. According to the announcement, Lome, Togo’s capital and largest city, will be the landing ground for Equiano. 

In a statement, Togo’s minister of digital economy and digital transformation, Cina Lawson, said that the country’s collaboration with Google is an indication of its dedication to the development of public and social citizens for the greater economic good. 

Reportedly a subsidiary of CSquared, a broadband infrastructure-focused company in Africa, alongside Societe d’Infrastructure Numeriques (SIN), will cater to the management and maintenance of the Togolese chapter of project Equiano. SIN is a heritage company managing the digital assets of the State. 

Ever since 2005, when Faure Gnassingbé ascended to the presidency following the passing on of his father (Faure Gnassingbé), there has been a deliberate push to transform the nation’s economy into one that is healthily reliant on digital technologies. 

In August 2020, Togo launched the first-ever commercial fifth-generation (5G) network connection in West Africa. Togocom, the market’s top telecoms operator, joined hands with Finnish Nokia to roll out the service, helping Togo become one of the few countries in Africa to have done so. Outside West Africa, South Africa and Kenya currently have a partial yet operational 5G connection on a commercial basis. 

Last May, the World Bank allocated USD 11 M for the further improvement of Togolese connectivity and, in generality, for the expansion of the nation’s digital economy. The funding came as part of the think tank’s financing plan for the West Africa Regional Communications Infrastructure Programme (WARCIP). 

Two months after the World Bank’s capital injection, Président Faure Gnassingbé inaugurated the first-ever data center facility in the country, launching the establishment in Lome. The center, said to be worth USD 23.7 M, has been under construction since 2019 and is funded from the coffers of WARCIP.

“The COVID-19 crisis has shown a heavy reliance on digital technology and a need for Togo to strengthen its digital infrastructure and enhance the resilience of its economy and services,” said Hawa Cissé Wagué, World Bank Resident Representative for Togo. 

“The development of the infrastructure provided for under this project will result in lower international connectivity costs and support for Togo’s digital transformation agenda,” she added. 

As for Equiano, Nigeria and Namibia are most likely the cable’s next touchpoint before finalizing in South Africa (most likely in June), the most industrialized economy in the continent. 

Per a Google-commissioned report, the underwater connectivity scheme will reduce internet costs by 14 percent come 2025, create 37,000 Togolese jobs, and boost the country’s GDP by USD 193 M. 

Featured Image: Indian Times

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