South Africa suffers internet outage

Multiple cable breaks occurred across Africa last week, severely impacting broadband connectivity across much of the continent, particularly in South Africa, its most commercially important country.

Four undersea cables were severed off the coast of Abidjan and Ivory Coast, with breaks caused by “seismic activity,” according to Microsoft. These are the main internet cables connecting South Africa to Europe along the west coast of Africa, including the West African Cable System (Wacs) and Google’s Equiano cable.

Microsoft named the four affected cables Wacs, MainOne, Sat-3, and Ace. Local reports said the faults could take weeks or even months to repair.

Vodacom, the region’s main telecommunications company, admitted that all network providers in South Africa were affected.

It didn’t help that East Africa’s main “Seacom” cable in the Red Sea was also cut, possibly by an anchor. Seacom said in February that data traffic was disrupted on its cable from Mombasa, Kenya, to Zafarana, Egypt.

Data shows that eight countries in West Africa have been severely affected, including Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia and Benin. Ghana, Nigeria and Cameroon also suffered damage, with Senegal and even Portugal also affected.

Microsoft said the cable outage reduced the total capacity supporting the South African Azure data center regions (i.e. South Africa North and South Africa West). Many organizations reported issues accessing Microsoft services, including Teams, last week and over the weekend.

Angola Cables said on March 15 that it had provided backup and alternatives to the industry.

Microsoft said it hopes the worst of the outage has been mitigated and that most links have returned to normal levels. However, major institutions such as Microsoft itself and Nedbank SA report that broadband and internet traffic must be redirected.

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