Africa’s Undersea Fiber Projects: Will They Materialize?

underseacables

There are four major fiber cable projects under construction targeting Eastern and Southern Africa:

  • EASSy (The East African Submarine Cable System) a 9,900 km undersea cable to stretch from South Africa all the way to Sudan.
  • TEAMS (The East African Marine System) to run from Fujairah in the UAE to Mombasa in Kenya.
  • RELIANCE (The Kenya Data Network Cable) to provide a link between Yemen, Mombasa and later South Africa,
  • SEACOM marine cable system to provide connectivity between South Africa, Madagascar, Mozambique, Tanzania, Kenya, India and Europe.

The multiplicity of Africa’s fiber cable projects has raised the hopes of many, including myself, that the ubiquity of high capacity, low cost internet bandwidth will bolster ICT-for-development initiatives in the continent.

So now the question is whether these projects will actually materialize; and if so, in what time frame?

An AfricaNext Investment Research report suggests that there are “too many” cable projects in progress, that at least 4 out of 10 of which probably won’t materialize due to a lack of adequate secured funding in these difficult economic times,¬† major Service Provider and/or Government support.

Unfortunately, the political wrangling and posturing plaguing some of the projects, for instance EASSy, is well documented (Google’s O3B v. EASSy v. NEPAD).

TEAMS is expected to be completed first, within the first quarter of 2009. According to the President of SEACOM, Brian Herlihy, the project is slated for completion on June 17th, 2009. EASSy if projected for mid-2010. Will they stay on schedule?