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Tech Safari Take: Internet is a turnoff

Kai Cenat came, he saw, and he lost signal

Welcome to Tech Safari Takes!

Each Friday, I’ll look at an interesting story that went down in African Tech in the week and give you the quick ‘Tech Safari Take’.

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Alright, onto this week’s Tech Safari Take!

Kai Cenat arrives in Accra, Ghana.

Two weeks ago, streamer Kai Cenat touched down in Lagos for his hyped "Africa tour".

After vibing with Afrobeat stars like Davido for four days, he hopped over to Ghana for another four-day stint.

Until Ghana’s internet went offline.

Frustrated by the digital blackout, he took to social media to rant, “There is no WIFI in the whole of Ghana.”

Then Kai said he ‘Cenat’ do this.

And 24 hours after touchdown, he flew back to the US.

Kai's a huge deal online - with 5.6 million YouTube subs and the second biggest Twitch streamer.

This trip was a chance for him to go live here and show Africa to the world.

So what happened?

The Backstory

Last week, Africa had a massive internet failure that hit 13 countries, not just Ghana.

Côte d'Ivoire, Liberia and Benin were hit hardest, while Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon and South Africa faced mild disruptions

It turns out, damaged undersea cables in the Atlantic caused it all.

The Sea, Cables, and Internet: What’s the link?

Undersea cables are laid on the seabed to carry massive amounts of data between countries and continents. Once the data lands on a landing station, it's transmitted to local internet service providers.

That data travels to cell towers or other network infrastructure that look like these:

So, when there's damage to these cables, it disrupts internet connectivity for regions relying on them for data transmission.

The Context

Africa leads global mobile internet traffic, with Nigeria surpassing even India in usage.

And it’s fascinating how vital mobile internet has become.

Take mobile banking and mobile money - another front where Africa leads the world.

Because we heavily rely on mobile services, an internet outage throws a spanner in the works:

  • Nigeria’s major banks went offline, leaving customers who couldn’t access their banking apps or use USSD services stranded

  • Car dealers in the country lost up to 70% in car sales.

  • And let's not even get started on social networks

When Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitch lag, the businesses that rely on them to reach customers struggle.

And impatient streamers throw a tantrum, pack up their things and peace out.

The Tech Safari Take

Internet in Africa is a turn off.

We’re still super-reliant on fiber internet, supported by a handful of undersea cables.

While 99% of Africa relies on cables, just 5% of the world's underwater internet lines are found here.

And when any of these get damaged, we have limited cables to reroute internet traffic to.

Which is why we think:

We need to give satellite internet a chance

When the internet outage hit Nigeria, it triggered different reactions on X (formerly Twitter).

Most of them were just plain fed up.

The Naira’s tanking, food prices are through the roof, power keeps cutting out, then now this?

Lord take this cup away.

But others, like Paystack’s co-founder Ezra, slipped their humble brags about switching to Starlink- a satellite internet service.

Starlink is owned by Elon Musk’s Space X.

It uses satellites in space to send internet signals to mini-dishes perched on your roof or backyard.

No cables needed.

But setting it up is still too steep for most Africans.

Last year, Starlink Nigeria had to slash its hardware prices by 21%, bringing it down to $210.84

And since launching in Africa two years ago, Starlink hasn’t had an easy run.

They've been banned in places like Ghana and Zimbabwe, and distributors even got arrested in some cases.

But last week showed us something important: Africa needs different internet choices.

When undersea cables fail, satellite internet can step up and keep connections running.

Fingers crossed that when Kai Cenat returns to Ghana in December, as promised, Starlink will be both legal and affordable.

Just in case an undersea cable decides to do the thing.

Do you think satellite internet can offer decent internet backup in Africa?

And that’s a wrap! Hope you enjoyed our Tech Safari Take.

If you did, shoot us a quick email and let us know 🙏🏾

Until next week.

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