Chris BishopBy Chris Bishop|November 16, 2021|8 Minutes|In Editor's Desk

Editors Desk

"Equiano – famous name spelling a faster future for Africa?"

Soon it will stretch for thousands of kilometres on the deep on the dark and dingy floor of the Atlantic Ocean and it is destined to bring light to the internet in Africa creating an easier life for millions of entrepreneurs. But what is the Equiano cable and is it all that it is cracked up to be ?

It is a fibre cable that is likely to be another important piece of the internet infrastructure for Africa that is likely to make a difference in the lives of millions of entrepreneurs up and down the continent.

I remember the flurry back in more than a decade ago companies like SEACOM – invested in by future President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Shanduka – landed their undersea cable in South Africa. This was in in the days when videos played at a snail’s pace and you had to buy “top up” 1GB packages.

The Equiano is buried deeper into the bed of the Atlantic Ocean than other cables to prevent delicate new technology from rubbing on the rocks.

The choice of name is a tribute to one of the literary icons of Africa  who fought against slavery.

Olaudah Equiano – who lived between 1745 and 1797 – was born in southern Nigerian and enslaved when he was a child. He was transported across the Atlantic – the very ocean that will now forever carry his name – to be sold in the United States to Royal Navy officer Michael Pascal. The officer sold Equiano to a ship’s captain and for years he sailed the seas – maybe even over the line where the fibre cable will be laid – and made enough to trade on the side. He managed to buy his freedom and went to live in London where he joined a group called ‘Sons of Africa’ a group of 12 African men who campaigned for abolition.

In 1789 he wrote a book about his life as a slave that helped to strengthen the abolitionists cause.

More than 230 years later, a fibre cable bearing his name will also help entrepreneurs among the sons and daughters of Africa fashion a brighter future.


“But what are the prospects for the Equiano cable and when will be start to operate?”  Billionaire Tomorrow spoke to tech expert Brendon Petersen, founder of Reframed Group, about the prospects for the Equiano cable.

  1. How much of a difference is the cable going to make for Africans?
  • A cable capable of these speeds and connectivity capabilities will help Africa bridge the digital divide, accelerate development and help fuel economic growth.


  1. Is it really going to triple internet speeds in SA?
  • Africa has a range of undersea cables providing internet but none of them are operating at their full capacity. The addition of Equiano most likely will not triple speeds as Google claims, but it will improve the resiliency of our connection to Europe.


  1. Will this make a difference for Africans? Which countries are likely to benefit the most?
  • In a Google commissioned study, conducted by Africa Practice in conjunction with Genesis Analytics, Nigeria, South Africa and Namibia are listed as examples benefiting from the Equiano cable with all of them benefiting from job creation. Thanks to the nine branching units built into the cable, various countries will benefit but initially it appears that Nigeria will be among the first countries on the continent to benefit.


  1. What’s the difference between optical switching at the fibre-pair vs wavelength level?
  • Equiano uses space-division multiplexing (SDM) technology which increases the number of fibre pairs whereas previously, undersea cables used technology that relied on wavelength-level switching which is expensive and can complicate a cable’s deployment. By swapping to fibre-level switching, Google is able to get a more compact, cost-effective and power-effective switching solution.


  1. I heard something about them laying the cables deeper in the ocean than the other ones? We all know they break from time to time, is this a prevention method?
  • Yes, it is a preventative method. You don’t want cables to rub against rocks or be disturbed in other ways, laying them deeper helps prevent this.


  1. Do we know when they will start and finish the project? Do you think they’ll be able to hit their deadlines?
  • Google initially announced the Equiano project back in 2019 and while the first phase of the project, which connects South Africa with Portugal, is expected to be completed this year, “The planned Ready For Service date for the initial configuration of Equiano is 2022 H2”, according to a report from the Conference on International Connectivity and the EU-Atlantic Data Gateway Platform.


  1. How much is this all costing?
  • While Google hasn’t announced the cost of the Equiano project, it’s worth noting that between 2016 and 2018, Google invested $47 billion into improving internet infrastructure. The company has also announced an investment of $1 Billion over 5 years to help develop digital infrastructure on the continent.


  1. Google isn’t the only one investing in supplying internet to Africa, we’ve also got the likes of Elon Musk etc. Why?
  • Infrastructure in Africa is severely underdeveloped. By building up a critical infrastructure like internet connectivity, tech giants know that they will be perfectly placed to drive impact and help shape the future of how we as a continent engage with and utilise the internet and future technologies that will rely on reliable connectivity.


  1. What other major projects are looking to set their footprints?
  • The most notable project of this nature, aside from Equiano, is Facebook’s 2Africa project which, upon completion, will be the world’s longest undersea cable and will connect Africa, Europe and Asia.