Welcome 2Africa: Facebook to open new office in Lagos

2AfricaOne of the commercial opportunities behind 2Africa, the 37,000km-long subsea cable connecting16 African countries to the Middle East and Europe by 2023/24 became clearer this week when Facebook (one of the investors behind the project) announced that it will be opening a new office in Lagos next year. As well as being home to sales, partnerships and communication teams, it will become the first Facebook office on the African continent to staff a team of engineers.
To be built by Alcatel Submarine Networks (ASN) and scheduled for completion in 2023-24, 2Africa’s cable will run along the bottom of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans and the Mediterranean and Red Seas and will eventually link up with other subsea cables to stretch the continent’s connectivity to Asia; along with MTN, GlobalConnect, Orange Telecom Egypt and Vodafone, one of Facebook’s fellow investors is China Mobile International CMI which already operates seven other subsea cables of its own. All of the consortium’s members evidently share the social media giant”s confidence in the  potential growth in demand for 4G, 5G and fixed broadband access in both Africa and the Middle East.
Even without 2Africa, the number of the contents’ inhabitants with access to both fixed and mobile connections may be growing fast, but it is from a very low base. In the four years that have elapsed since Facebook’s founder and chairman first visited Nigeria, for instance, the number of Facebook’s active users has risen from 16 million active users to 27.5 million – but, on account of the country’s rapid population growth rate, that now only represents around 10% of the Nigerian population.
Africans on internetThe wider picture tells a similar story; 800 million of the continent’s 1.2 billion people are not connected to the internet. This is partly due to infrastructure shortages, but it is also a pricing issue. On average, 1GB of data costs an African user 8% of monthly income, four times more than the UN recommends. The consortium hopes to change all that. “We need to ensure that there is enough internet capacity to not only get people online, but to help build a modern digital society that includes services that require a large amount of data transfer, such as cloud computing or video,” said Nick Gliddon, director of Vodafone Carrier Services. Africa2 would  also help improve healthcare and education, he added.