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East Africa internet outage: Undersea cable faults disrupt services for 80 million users

Sunday May 12, 2024

Mogadishu (HOL) — Over 80 million internet users across East Africa are currently experiencing slow speeds and complete outages due to several critical undersea fibre-optic cables experiencing faults this Sunday. 

The Eastern Africa Submarine Cable System (EASSy) and Seacom, both vital for the region's connectivity, reported simultaneous issues that have significantly impacted areas from Kenya to South Africa. Ben Roberts, Chief Technology and Information Officer at Liquid Intelligent Technologies, noted that the EASSy cable was compromised about 45 kilometres north of Durban, South Africa. Adding to the disruptions, other sub-sea capacities also faced cuts in the Red Sea, further compounding the situation.

The impact of these outages is profound, affecting 
not only the digital economy but also day-to-day communications. The outages highlight the region's heavy reliance on undersea cables, which are crucial for both local internet services and global data traffic. Despite redundancy systems, there have been noticeable slowdowns, which are especially problematic as major companies like Google, Microsoft, and Amazon depend on these networks for their cloud services in Africa.

Service providers across the region, including major players like Safaricom and Airtel, have been overwhelmed with complaints and queries from distressed users. The frustration is evident on social media platforms; for example, a significant drop in internet traffic was reported in Tanzania, with figures falling to just 30% of the expected levels. This disruption has broadly affected various sectors, from emergency services and financial transactions to entertainment and personal communications, underscoring the critical need for stable internet connectivity.

Furthermore, the timing of these outages coincides with previous disruptions noted earlier this year. Similar incidents in March affected not just East Africa but also the southern and western parts of the continent, including the Red Sea regions where cables remain unrepaired. This recurrence underscores the vulnerability of the infrastructure critical to the internet across the continent.

Efforts to repair the damaged cables are ongoing, with teams prepared to begin work later this week. However, the geographic and technical challenges involved could delay the restoration process, leaving the region in a state of digital uncertainty.


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