Back in 2019, Liquid Telecom announced the launch of the East to West Africa data link. This audacious project was going to, for the first time, connect the continent to the Atlantic Ocean. In a report by The Chronicle, this project has been completed according to Econet Group Chairman Strive Masiyiwa.
“Next week on Tuesday President Félix Tshisekedi of the DRC will officially commission our fibre link, which runs from the port city of Moanda on the Atlantic, through Kinshasa the Capital, to Lubumbashi, Zambia, Zimbabwe and all the way to Cape Town”Strive Masiyiwa (The Chronicle)
The completion of this project marks the first time that East and West Africa have been connected via fibre. Before this, there was no data link and connection between the two halves of Africa had to be routed through London.
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“Once in Zambia, the cable joins the Liquid cable that runs to East Africa and on to Egypt. It will also create the first crossing of Africa from West to East, by fibre cables. I consider this project one of the most important in my entire 35-year career as an African entrepreneur”Strive Masiyiwa
Liquid’s East to West fibre link will now direct network traffic between the DRC and Tanzania.
Trails that were overcome
As you can imagine laying fibre is not an easy job. The teams would have to contend with rough and uneven terrain on top of just the sheer distance.
“It took more than 10 years from when we first arrived in Lubumbashi in the South, to finally get to Kinshasa. There were so many challenges. Getting from Lubumbashi to Kinshasa is a journey of more than 2 300km, through the world’s second largest rain forest.”Strive Masiyiwa
This is one of the reasons why Liquid Telecom and Google subsidiary “X” are testing the potential of light beam long-distance internet connection. However, this endeavour preceded that innovation and Liquid had more things to worry about besides the terrain.
Anything that connects to the internet needs electricity and well…
“Once the cable was in place, we had a problem of providing power to the 16 repeater stations that drive the signal through the fibre. Our team at Distributed Power Africa (DPA) built this unique power system and installed it in less than 12 months”Strive Masiyiwa
Distributed Power Africa (DPA) was able to connect the 16 repeater stations that drive through the signal. This is an impressive feat to do in 12 months more so because they had to piggyback the fibre on top of the power grid that runs through the rain forest.
The project also faced financial challenges as well as the political quagmire that is common in Africa. On the bright side, the Liquid Telecom East to West Africa fibre link employed more than 10 000 people.
There are also 5 000 people who are still employed as Liquid Telecom completes the 2 000km link connecting the DRC and Rwanda. This leg of the project is set to be completed on the end of March.