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Google's Umoja Cable Initiative to Enhance Internet Access in Africa

Google's Umoja Cable to Connect Africa and Australia, Enhancing Internet Access for 13 African Countries.

By Athena Xu

5/23, 10:13 EDT
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Key Takeaway

  • Google announces the Umoja cable, the first subsea fiber optic link between Africa and Australia, enhancing internet access in Africa.
  • The cable will traverse Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Congo, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa before reaching Australia.
  • This initiative aims to address frequent outages in Africa by providing a more resilient and reliable internet connection.

Google’s Umoja Cable Initiative

Alphabet Inc.’s Google has announced the construction of the first undersea fiber optic cable directly connecting Africa with Australia. Named Umoja, the cable aims to enhance internet access in Africa, one of the least-connected regions globally. This initiative follows the earlier Equiano cable, which links Africa with Europe. The new cable will start in Kenya and traverse through Uganda, Rwanda, Congo, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa before crossing the ocean to Australia. Google stated in a blog post on Thursday that this infrastructure will significantly improve internet coverage on the continent, which has faced challenges due to damaged cables and limited terrestrial infrastructure.

Brian Quigley, Google Cloud’s VP for global network infrastructure, emphasized the importance of the new route: “Umoja will enable African countries to more reliably connect with each other and the rest of the world. Establishing a new route distinct from existing connectivity routes is critical to maintaining a resilient network for a region that has historically experienced high-impact outages.” He also expressed gratitude for the partnerships with leaders across Africa and Australia in delivering the Africa Connect initiative.

Collaboration and Technological Impact

The terrestrial path of the Umoja cable was developed in collaboration with Liquid Technologies, forming a highly scalable route through Africa. This route includes access points that will allow other countries to benefit from the network. The announcement comes at a time when US President Joe Biden and Kenyan President William Ruto are meeting in Washington to deepen US ties with Africa, highlighting the continent's growing importance in global technology and connectivity competition.

Meg Whitman, the US ambassador to Kenya and former CEO of eBay Inc., remarked on the significance of this development: “Access to the latest technology, supported by reliable and resilient digital infrastructure, is critical to growing economic opportunity. This is a meaningful moment for Kenya’s digital transformation journey.” The new cable is expected to provide a more reliable internet connection, addressing the frequent outages that have plagued the region due to undersea fiber cuts.

Addressing Connectivity Challenges

The need for improved connectivity in Africa has been underscored by recent widespread outages. In March, a suspected underwater rock slide off the coast of Cote d’Ivoire caused several submarine cables to go offline, impacting 13 African countries on the West African seaboard. This resulted in either degraded services or near-total internet outages. A similar incident occurred this month, affecting internet services across East and South Africa.

Google’s initiative with the Umoja cable is part of a broader effort to enhance digital infrastructure in Africa. The company’s previous project, the Equiano cable, has already made strides in connecting Africa with Europe. The new cable will further bolster these efforts by providing a direct link to Australia, thereby diversifying and strengthening the region's internet connectivity.

Street Views

  • Meg Whitman, US Ambassador to Kenya and former e-Bay Inc. CEO (Bullish on Kenya's digital transformation):

    "Access to the latest technology, supported by reliable and resilient digital infrastructure, is critical to growing economic opportunity... This is a meaningful moment for Kenya’s digital transformation journey."