• Monday, July 15, 2024
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Equiano cable landing seen adding 1.6m jobs, $10b to GDP in Nigeria

Equiano cable landing seen adding 1.6m jobs, $10b to GDP in Nigeria

Faster internet speeds of up to six times what is currently experienced in Nigeria, and also at reduced costs of up to 21 percent, all contributing to drive the digital economy are some of the benefits expected from the arrival in Lagos of a subsea fibre optic cable, the Equiano. This follows an earlier stop in Togo last month from Portugal, and proceeding to connect other parts of Africa.

The Cable, when deployed in Nigeria is to lead to the creation of 1.6 million jobs along the value chain within the next three years, while also adding an estimated $10 billion to Nigeria’s GDP. This was disclosed today at an event to mark the cable’s landing, with installations to commence locally and over the next five months before it goes live in September.

A World Bank study in 2009, had concluded that a 10 percentage point increase in fixed broadband penetration would increase GDP growth by 1.21 percent in developed economies and 1.38 percent in developing ones. In 2016, another report noted that in almost every study, despite the methodology and whether it was cross-country or single country, found a positive economic impact from fixed broadband.

With millions of (mostly young) Nigerians actively using the internet to create economic opportunities for themselves, through remote work, content creation and other internet-based ventures, investments such as the Equiano cable, which is funded by Google, and has WIOCC as the cable landing partner in Nigeria, can give more Nigerians better competitive advantage in the global digital economy. The cable itself, has been described as a state-of-the-art subsea cable, which is to become an important element in meeting Nigeria’s current and future international connectivity demands.

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“The cable we are landing today carries more than 20 times the capacity of any other cable that has been delivered in Africa,” said Chris Wood, chief executive officer of WIOCC, noting the cable has a capacity to deliver 144 terabytes (TB) of data, whereas the previous highest capacity could take only about 20 TB of data.

Wood also noted the cable is “the first truly open access cable to land in Africa. Others that landed in the last 15 years had limitations,” but the Equiano cable enables as many people and companies (including local telecom operators) as possible to connect to the cable and utilise it for their network needs.

“We are going to make sure it is available to everyone to use,” Wood emphasised.

Nigeria, the largest digital market in Africa, according to data from the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) had 144 million internet users as at February 2022, while broadband subscriptions were 78 million, representing 40.91 percent penetration. In Nigeria, like other parts of the world, the COVID-19 pandemic, which reduced human interaction to the bare minimum, emphasised the importance of digital communication that is driven largely by the internet. Infrastructures such as the Equiano cable that is landing in Nigeria, would make internet connectivity better in the country, and ultimately cheaper.

“We have a lot of Nigerians that are using the internet to grow their businesses, to broadcast themselves, learn new skills and to share their content with the world through video platforms like YouTube,” Juliet Ehimuan, director, West Africa at Google told BusinessDay on the sidelines of the event. “When you have the capacity to increase (internet) speed and prices come down, a lot of people will have more activities and that would generate growth and jobs.”

Ehimuan also stated that “Equiano is set to make an enduring contribution towards the development of Nigeria’s communications infrastructure and today marks another major step in its development. We look forward to honouring our commitment to be part of Africa’s digital transformation.”

Phase3 telecom, West Africa telecom and Galaxy backbone, were noted during the event among local players that would be partnered in stretching the connectivity potentials of the Equiano cable to reach major cities in Nigeria. Other industry players, as BusinessDay learnt, will be accommodated whenever they choose to plug in.

“It will make high quality internet available at an affordable price to Nigerians,” Wood said.

The Equiano cable, named after Olaudah Equiano, a Nigerian-born writer and abolitionist who was enslaved as a boy, is the third private international cable owned by Google and the 14th subsea cable invested by Google.

Equiano connects Portugal and South Africa, running along the West Coast of Africa, with branching units along the way that can be used to extend connectivity to additional African countries.