Equiano, Google’s subsea internet cable in Africa, will make its first landing in Togo this month. Google announced this on Friday (18 March 2022).
First announced in 2019, Equiano is Google’s 14th investment in internet subsea cables but the first dedicated to internet access in Africa. It is expected to travel from Portugal to South Africa and is part of the company’s $1 billion Africa investment that includes a $50 million venture capital startup fund.
An initial map of the project suggested it would branch first in Lagos-Nigeria, however, Cina Lawson, Togo’s minister for digital economy and transformation, said her government was able to convince Google that it should be Togo instead.
the “Equiano” cable, named after Nigerian-born writer and abolitionist Olaudah Equiano, would create improved high-speed and affordable internet access to millions of people in the country and West Africa, according to a joint statement by the Togolese government and Google said
The cable will land in Togo’s capital, Lome, and is also set to have landings in Nigeria and Namibia before a final landing in Cape Town-South Africa.
Raising west Africa’s internet capacity
A local company formed by CSquared, an international open-access wholesale broadband infrastructure company, and Societe infrastructure Numeriques (SIN), a public telecommunications asset company, will manage and maintain the cable.
It will extend internet services from the subsea cable to other parts of the country, acting as the country’s national broadband backbone.
Despite 72% of the population having mobile phones and ranking 6th in Africa on the World Bank’s (now suspended) ease of doing business list, only a third of the population is covered by mobile broadband, according to the GSMA’s Mobile Connectivity Index.
While the world moves ahead with 5G, most Togolese still rely on 3G which covers only two-thirds of the country.
Lawson says Google’s cable, projected to offer 20 times more bandwidth than other cables in West Africa, will fill a yearning for Togo’s population whose average age is 19. “When you are 18, what you want is a really strong internet connection. And if you want that, you need fibre-optic networks.”
Togo’s investment to build a strong digital economy
Togo has shown promise in adopting digital technologies in recent times.
In 2020, the Togolese president launched a plan to strengthen social support and economic development by investing in technology. It aims to turn Togo into a tech hub.
In May 2021, the World Bank approved an additional $11m from the International Development Association “to improve connectivity in Togo and develop the country’s digital economy”.
Equiano is expected to add $351 million (pdf) to Togo’s economic output by 2025. To fully develop this capacity, however, Lawson says Togo will seek multiples of that amount, up to €300 million. “We are talking to lenders to put fibre on all-electric lines. It is a process but we will get there soon.”