Work on the first terrestrial fibre network reaching all the way across Africa is expected to wrap up soon.
Pan-African telecoms group Liquid Telecom and Telecom Egypt (Egypt’s first integrated telecom operator) announced at the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank)’s annual meeting that they’ve signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). The MoU will enable Liquid Telecom to shortly complete Africa’s terrestrial fibre network, stretching all the way from Cape Town in South Africa to Cairo in Egypt.
Under the MoU, Liquid Telecom will link its network from Sudan into Telecom Egypt’s network via a new cross-border interconnection – bringing together a 60,000-kilometre (in total) network that runs from Cape Town, through dozens of southern, central, and eastern African countries, and has now reached the border between Sudan and Egypt.
The Cape Town to Cairo network – often referred to as the “One Africa” broadband network – has been in the making for more than ten years, and serves some of the largest global companies with some of the fastest network speeds on the continent.
Ahmed El Beheiry, Telecom Egypt’s chief executive officer and managing director, is pretty excited about where things are headed. “This MoU is a great step in our strategy to penetrate the African market and avail Telecom Egypt’s most advanced technology and global infrastructure services to customers across Africa,” he said. “We look forward to working alongside Liquid Telecom to develop new network services and products that will help stimulate intra-regional trade.”
Strive Masiyiwa, founder and executive chairman of Econet – another organisation that has been involved with the fibre network – is also looking forward to what comes next. “Completing our vision of building a single network running on land, all the way from Cape to Cairo is a historic moment for the company and for a more connected Africa,” he said. “This network not only represents a remarkable engineering achievement that has overcome some of the most challenging distances and terrains on the continent, but it is also supporting the rise of Africa’s digital economies.”
He said more. “Wherever the One Africa network has been completed we have seen dramatic increase of data traffic between nations connected to it. We expect to see a lot of traffic between Egypt and the rest of Africa. Where there is improved communications, improved trade follows as well. We need to see more trade between African countries.”
As part of the strategic partnership, Liquid Telecom and Telecom Egypt will share network infrastructure and explore further areas of collaboration, including joint network services, a peering arrangement and a voice interconnection agreement.
Telecom Egypt, which has served Egyptian customers for more than 160 years, will offer Liquid Telecom greater reach through interconnection services, while Telecom Egypt will benefit from access to Liquid Telecom’s pan-African fibre network.
The 2018 annual meetings of Afreximbank – the foremost pan-African multilateral financial institution devoted to financing and promoting intra- and extra-African trade – was held from July 11-14 in Abuja, Nigeria. As happens every year, the event brought together banking industry professionals, trade and trade finance practitioners, and other parties involved in economic development across Africa and beyond.
Dr Benedict Oramah, president of Afreximbank, said: “The roll-out of infrastructure, particularly high-speed networks, is crucial for stimulating intra-regional trade. The Cape to Cairo network sets a new standard for Africa and will open-up new trade opportunities across the region.”