The West African country of Togo will be the first landing of a new Google undersea internet cable connected to Europe, in what the tech giant and the Togolese government have hailed as a “major digital infrastructure transformation initiative”.
The announcement on Friday comes months after Google and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai announced a five-year $1bn investment to support “a range of initiatives from improved connectivity to investment in startups” across the African continent.
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In a joint release, the Togolese government and Google said the “Equiano” cable, named after Nigerian-born writer and abolitionist Olaudah Equiano, would create improved high-speed and affordable internet access to millions of people in the country and West Africa. The landing will be in Togo’s capital, Lome.
Cina Lawson, Togo’s minister of digital economy and digital transformation, said the collaboration further shows the country’s “commitment to enhancing public and social services for all citizens so that they can benefit economically”.
The cable is also set to have landings in Nigeria and Namibia before a final landing in Cape Town, South Africa.
Google, which first announced the project in 2019, has said the cable would have about 20 times more network capacity than a previous cable built to serve this region. It is the company’s third private international underwater cable and first in Africa.
A local company formed by CSquared, an international open-access wholesale broadband infrastructure company, and Societe d’Infrastructure Numeriques (SIN), a public telecommunications asset company, will manage and maintain the cable on Togolese soil.
The government of Togo, lead by President Faure Gnassingbe, who took power following his father’s death in 2005, has recently set its sights on digital development.
In 2020, it launched an ambitious plan to strengthen social support and economic development by investing in technology. It aims to turn Togo, a country of about eight million people, into a tech hub.
Last May, the World Bank approved an additional $11m from the International Development Association “to improve connectivity in Togo and develop the country’s digital economy”.
The funding is part of the West Africa Regional Communications Infrastructure Program, which seeks to bridge “connectivity gaps” between 16 West African countries and the rest of the world.
“We are thrilled that Togo will be Equiano’s first landing on the African continent, as it aligns with the country’s continuing efforts to promote digital inclusion for Africa,” Nitin Gajria, managing director of Google sub-Saharan Africa, said in a statement.
“We look forward to working closely with the Togolese Government and The Ministry of Digital Economy and Transformation as they continue to build their digital infrastructure.”