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Linking Africa to the world

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July 13 · Issue #42 · View online
iAfrikan Daily Brief
Over the past few weeks there has been more funding announced for 2 subsea fiber cables on the West Coast of Africa. First it was Google that announced that it will privately fund the Equiano subsea cable that will connect Africa to Europe. Once completed, the cable will run from Portugal and along the West Coast of Africa to South Africa.
Lately, Cabo Verde Telecom announced that it had received several million dollars worth of funding from the European Investment Bank (EIB) so it can improve telecommunications in the country and connect it to the soon to be implemented in 2020, EllaLink subsea cable. The EllaLink subsea cable connects Brasil to Portugal, however, its route runs through the West African island nation of Cabo Verde.
Beyond these two cables, the continent over the past several years is now surrounded by several high speed subsea cables connecting it to North and South America, Europe and Asia. However, in the discussions around Internet connectivity in Africa, what is more important than subsea cables is terrestrial fiber cables connecting various African countries together.
A map of all the subsea telecommunications cables around the world. Source: submarinecablemap.com
Subsea cables linking Africa to the rest of the world are partly important because they reduce latency and the time taken to, among others, consume content that resides in data centers outside the continent. However, this still, in my opinion, speaks to trade and industry models from yesteryear when Africa was mostly used as a source of labour and natural resources and in turn the finished product shipped back to the continent as a consumer product.
A map of rail networks in Africa built during colonial times which still persist to this day. Souce: citi.io
This is best illustrated when you look at the map of railway lines across Africa. Most, with the exception of Southern Africa, were built in a linear manner going from inland straight to a major port to facilitate the exporting of mostly raw natural resources. Very few railway lines in Africa connect with neighbouring or between cities. What is interesting, is that, as of 2013, the terrestrial map of fibre cables has an uncanny resemblance to the map of railway lines built during colonial times.
(2013) A map of terrestrial fiber cables across Africa. Source: manypossibilities.net
The importance of terrestrial fiber can never be over emphasized. For starters it lays the groundwork that makes it possible for us to have data centers in Africa that can serve data, media and information directly from the continent or its individual countries. This not only speaks to reduction in latency, increase in speeds but also data sovereignty.
Also, with the recent launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area, terrestrial fiber is important to intra-Africa trade. Where before your request for information for a server sitting in Kenya if you are in South Africa would need to be re-routed via Europe, North America or Asia, this can be a direct request. It also opens up many other opportunities.
On that note, it is encouraging to see the huge task that Liquid Telecom has undertaken with its One Africa broadband network which is well on its way of connecting all of Africa after recently signing an agreement to build a fiber network in South Sudan which will also be connected to their pan-African fiber network.
It is commendable that we are linking Africa to the world, but more important is to link Africa to Africa.
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Read This Book
The book, Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of NIKE is not your typical story of entrepreneurship. Here’s what Bill Gates had to say about the book written by Phil Knight.
Many books I’ve read about entrepreneurs follow a common, and I believe misleading, storyline. It goes like this: a sharp entrepreneur gets a world-changing idea, develops a clear business strategy, recruits a crack team of partners, and together they rocket to fame and riches. Reading these accounts, I’m always struck by how they make their achievements appear to be the inevitable result of some great prescience or unusual skill. It’s no wonder publishers churn out “how-to” titles packed with tidy checklists, 5-step programs, and other simplistic recipes for entrepreneurial success. Shoe Dog, Phil Knight’s memoir about creating Nike, is a refreshingly honest reminder of what the path to business success really looks like. It’s a messy, perilous, and chaotic journey riddled with mistakes, endless struggles, and sacrifice. In fact, the only thing that seems inevitable in page after page of Knight’s story is that his company will end in failure.
Fresh out of business school, Phil Knight borrowed $50 from his father and launched a company with one simple mission: import high-quality, low-cost running shoes from Japan. Selling the shoes from the boot of his car, Knight grossed $8,000 during the first year of trading in 1963. Today, Nike’s annual sales are north of $30 billion. In this age of startups, Knight’s Nike is the gold standard, and its swoosh is instantly recognized in every corner of the world.
However, Knight, the man behind the swoosh, has always been a mystery. Now, in a memoir that’s surprising, humble, unfiltered, funny and beautifully crafted, he tells his story at last.
Knight details the many terrifying risks he encountered along the way, the crushing setbacks, ruthless competitors and hostile bankers-as well as his many thrilling triumphs and narrow escapes. Above all, he recalls the foundational relationships that formed the heart and soul of Nike. Together, harnessing the electrifying power of a bold vision and a shared belief in the redemptive, transformative power of sports, they created a brand, and a culture, that changed everything.
“Readers looking for a lesson from Knight’s book may leave this book disappointed. I don’t think Knight sets out to teach the reader anything. There are no tips or checklists. Instead, Knight accomplishes something better. He tells his story as honestly as he can. It’s an amazing tale. It’s real. And you’ll understand in the final pages why, despite all of the hardships he experienced along the way, Knight says, “God, how I wish I could relive the whole thing.” - Bill Gates
In conclusion, on page 382 Phil says:
“Those who urge entrepreneurs to never give up? Charlatans. Sometimes you have to give up. Sometimes knowing when to give up, when to try something else, is genius. Giving up doesn’t mean stopping. Don’t ever stop.“
Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike: Phil Knight
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