Entrèe Into West Africa

Funke Opeke of MainOneBy Funke Opeke
May 21, 2018

MainOne Invests In Cote D'Ivoire Landing

The Obvious Gaps

Most African countries have internet penetration of less than 10% (well below the 20% threshold critical for countries to reap the economic benefits of broadband investment. While submarine cables have had a dramatic impact on access to bandwidth, impact across all countries in the region is not consistent.

But encouraging developments are emerging. MainOne has also secured a license to extend its submarine cable to Cote D’Ivoire and enable it further democratize the international bandwidth market in Cote D’Ivoire and neighbouring countries to support wholesale customers, Internet Service Providers, Telcos and indigenous businesses. Efforts are also underway to extend access to landlocked countries of Burkina Faso, Chad, Niger and Mali through existing fiber infrastructure and other backbone networks planned by operators in the various countries.

Connecting the UEMOA countries: a case for Cote D’Ivoire

According to a GSMA Intelligence report, Cote D’Ivoire has significantly improved on its mobile broadband penetration, from less than 3% to 26% within ten years. This internet leap has enabled the country’s digital transformation and made positive impact on economic development, albeit driven by mobile technology. By contrast, only 3% and 7% of the population have access to a fixed broadband connection and fixed telephone line respectively.

However the gains of mobile connectivity, the country is still severely constrained by the high cost of international bandwidth which has manifested in the high broadband prices. Broadband prices are significantly higher in Cote D’Ivoire than in any other large market in West Africa.

An argument for private submarine operators over consortium

With three submarine cables, Cote D’Ivoire is one of Africa’s lucky countries. There are consortium cables run by Orange managing the SAT 3 and African Coast to Europe (ACE) systems, and MTN managing the West African Cable System (WACS).  In the absence of any pure play wholesale competitor, all ISPs buy from either of these two capacity pools managed by the two largest retail operators in the market.  While capacity has expanded and prices have declined in recent years, the UEMOA market is ripe for the delivery of open-access subsea capacity and will benefit from having additional capacity options in a fully liberalized market.

To continue reading the rest of this article, please read it in Issue 100 of the SubTel Forum magazine here on page 32.