Internet Blackout Hits Africa as Undersea Cables Fail

Large parts of Africa have been plunged into an internet blackout after several vital undersea cables were damaged, according to multiple reports. Over a dozen countries across West, Central and Southern Africa saw connectivity drop severely, impacting millions.

The outages were caused by faults in major cable systems like WACS, ACE, SAT-3 and MainOne that run along the Atlantic coasts, according to statements from network operators and regulators cited by Reuters. “The cuts occurred somewhere in Cote d’Ivoire and Senegal,” said Reuben Muoka, spokesman for Nigeria’s telecom regulator NCC (as per Reuters).

In Ivory Coast, internet usage plummeted to just 4% at the peak according to internet monitor Netblocks (BBC report). Connectivity also dropped below 20% in Liberia and Benin as reported by the BBC. “It’s been impossible to communicate with clients,” fashion designer Cheick Senou told the BBC from Abidjan.

The blackout severely disrupted economic activity. “50% of my life is gone today,” Liberian Benjamin Garkpah was quoted as saying by the BBC. The African Union estimated the outages could cost over $330 million per day in GDP losses if prolonged (AU statement).

For students, the impacts were particularly damaging. “My coding courses moved online after COVID, now I can’t access anything,” tweeted Kenyan software student Edith Mukite (her tweet). South Africa’s Vodacom confirmed the outages affected cloud services like Microsoft Azure (ITWeb report).

Repair Efforts Underway A coalition led by firms like Liquid Intelligent Technologies deployed ships to repair the damaged cables, according to Data Center Dynamics. But fully restoring connectivity could take weeks given the cables run along Africa’s vast coastlines.

This prompted calls for urgent action from leaders like South African President Cyril Ramaphosa who stated “we cannot remain cut off in the digital age,” and Ghana’s Nana Akufo-Addo who demanded restoring “vital internet links” (Reuters report).

Long-term, the UN says over $100 billion is needed to build resilient internet infrastructure across Africa by 2030, as stated in its Broadband Commission report. Current cables leave over 60% of Africans unconnected as detailed in the “Internet Infrastructure in Africa” overview.

For now, those trapped offline can only wait, highlighting the continent’s vulnerability when critical undersea cables are compromised. As repairs continue, the crisis underscores the urgency of achieving affordable, reliable internet for Africa’s poorest and marginalized communities.

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