Although Africa represents 14% of the world’s population, it currently has less than 3% of the world’s telephone lines. Africa remains the world’s least developed continent in telecommunications.
International telecommunications connectivity across Eastern and Southern Africa was almost exclusively delivered via satellites. At present, about 90% of intra-African voice and data traffic is routed through Europe and North America at a cost of about US$600 million per year. This was both unreliable and extremely expensive, with the result that capacity uptake within the wholesale market was severely restricted by budget constraints.
EASSy will act as a medium of internet connectivity carrying telecom traffic for all African operators from the Eastern and Southern African markets to connecting Cable networks in Europe, Asia and the Americas.
AfDB funding was a vital element in the setting up of the West Indian Ocean Cable Company (WIOCC), which was established as a “Special Purpose Vehicle” (SPV) and largest shareholder in the EASSy submarine cable system. Both the AfDB and WIOCC/EASSy benefited from loans from other development finance institutions, specifically the World Bank/IFC, AFD and KfW.
A 10,000 Km Submarine cable
EASSy is a 10,000km submarine cable system deployed along the east and south coast of Africa to service the voice, data, video and internet needs of the region. With more than 10 Tbps of capacity, EASSy is one of the highest capacity systems serving Africa. It links South Africa with Sudan via landing points in Mozambique, Madagascar, the Comoros, Tanzania, Kenya, Somalia and Djibouti. The project, estimated at US$ 235 million, incorporates the latest developments in submarine fibre-optic technology, making it economical to connect the region to the high-speed global telecommunications network. The system is owned and operated by a group of 16 African (92%) and international (8%) telecommunications providers. The EASSy project is a reflection of the Bank’s new strategic thrust to achieve its five operational priorities and is rooted on the necessity to integrate Africa and strengthen telecommunication infrastructure.
The Game changer
The deployment of a submarine cable to serve the east coast of Africa was considered to be critical in many respects, including putting businesses across the region on an equal footing with world markets, enabling students and researchers to share local data with the rest of the world (e.g. data related to diseases, farming, and natural resources, among others) and to benefit from the vast store of knowledge accessible through the internet, empowering citizens through improved information access and availability of online services ( health and eGovernment), and to make improvements in the quality, reliability and scalability of the region’s communications infrastructure. All of these benefits are passed on to internet service providers, enabling them to offer cost-effective, reliable, and accessible services to the growing number of businesses and individuals across the continent.