Internet instability in West Africa: Assessing the impact of damaged submarine cables

The stability of the internet in West Africa has been severely compromised after a critical undersea cable was damaged, leaving internet services unavailable or barely operational in much of the region. Particularly hampered are countries such as Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia and Benin.

According to findings from Internet watchdog NetBlocks, the impact in these countries has oscillated between serious and severe. In addition to affecting large swaths of West Africa, the outage also affected users in South Africa, where thousands reported internet disruptions.

In statements related to the incident, two major African operators, MTN and Vodafone, confirmed that a fault in an undersea cable was the cause of the disruption. A relevant person in charge of Vodafone said, “Currently, multiple submarine cable failures between South Africa and Europe are affecting South African network providers including Vodafone.”

As of now, the exact location of the damage has not been determined. In addition, the recent severing of the Seacom cable connecting South Africa to Europe via East Africa and the Red Sea further exacerbates existing challenges. The situation is delicate due to delays in restoration work due to the region’s geopolitical status.

The incident marks the second time in less than a year that Africa’s internet infrastructure has faced chaos due to problems with undersea cables. There is currently uncertainty over the duration of repairing the damage as the location of the break remains unknown. There is no doubt that this latest incident heralds new challenges for the African telecommunications industry and the affected regions.

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