While Africa has traditionally been able to ‘leap frog’ the poor landline infrastructure on the continent by using mobile technology, the rapid rise of mobile devises and demand for broadband is pushing current infrastructure to its limits. In fact, the African market has one of the highest growth rates regarding the utilisation of the internet. With the world’s network of fiber optic cables doing most of the heavy lifting to keep information flowing around the world, providing a direct undersea link between Africa and South America has become a necessity for the region’s expanding data requirements.
With construction of the South Atlantic Cable System having recently begun, Africa will finally have a direct undersea link with South America. As the first transatlantic cable route in the southern hemisphere, SACS will not only interconnect the two continents but also place the country of Angola at the vanguard of international telecommunications in sub-Saharan Africa. With the rapid evolution of technology on the continent, this project is crucial for advancing Africa’s digital economy and improving global communications.
Stretching roughly 6200km’s, the SACS undersea fiber optic cable will connect Fortaleza on the Brazilian coastline with Luanda in Angola at a capacity of 40 Tbps and a price tag of roughly USD$160m. SACS is 100 percent owned by Angola Cables and according to a recent statement by their CEO Antonio Nunes, is on target for completion by mid-2018.
The significance of SACS goes beyond simply connecting Africa and South America. By linking up with the new MONET undersea cable that runs to Miami from Fortaleza, Brazil, SACS provides Africa with its first direct link to North America too. Prior to the laying of SACS, Africa and North America have had to connect through Europe along the West African Cable System (WACS) which travels up the West coast of Africa to Spain and then the UK, thereafter connecting with northern hemisphere undersea cables to get to the United States. Connecting to South America entailed even another step, making the process slow and expensive. With Angola now acting as a hub for the connection of WAC and SACS undersea cables complemented by the local data centers necessary for such infrastructure, it is clear that the country will act as a telecommunications hub for the region.
Once completed, the project is expected to reduce the lag time between a data packet being sent and received between Africa and the America’s fivefold. Through SACS, Africa will have faster and cheaper access to South and North America. Another positive is that Africa will be directly linked with the United States. As the largest center for the production and aggregation of digital content and services in the world, having direct access to the United States is a critical component for increasing Africa’s integration with the global economy and advancing technological progress on the continent. It can also encourage larger tech companies, like Google, Facebook and Apple, to expand and invest more in Africa. Currently Google and Facebook only have offices in Johannesburg and the Africa office for Apple is based in Ireland. As the SACS connects Africa to the rest of the world, it will hopefully encourage larger companies to expand in Africa.
Indeed, SACS is a huge step forward and signifies a watershed moment for Africa’s digital landscape. By providing the marketplace with an opportunity for greater diversification, increased connectivity and enhanced security via a southern transatlantic route, SACS will make Angola a critical component of a rapidly evolving African technological landscape. Providing the level of connectivity that companies require to grow their operations and attract investment, Angola is once again proving itself in what is now a global technological playing field.
With the infrastructure required to realize its potential, diversify its economy, and integrate global knowledge with local expertise, this project puts Angola and its people in a unique position to capture the opportunities ahead and reap the rewards of Africa’s rise.
By: Zandre Campos, Chairman and CEO of ABO Capital