As its first landing in Africa, the digital initiative will have a direct impact on Internet connectivity in Togo, resulting in high-speed improved and affordable internet access for millions of Togolese and West Africans in the region.
Globally, sub-Saharan Africa remains the most underserved region in terms of internet infrastructure. Penetration stands at 29%, while for the entire continent (including North Africa), it is 40%. A report by the International Finance Corporation shows that Africa has the lowest number of Internet connections—only 22 percent of the continent has access.
Togo is a West Africa country, although with one of the world’s youngest populations (a median age of 19.4 years in 2020) lives without internet access that is affordable, reliable and of good quality. Internet access in Togo is among the least affordable on the continent, hindering uptake and limiting the country’s digital potential.
Fortunately, “Equiano” is a project that will play an integral part in supporting Togo’s ambitious digitalization plans of being the leading logistics and services hub in West Africa. It is a West African Subsea cable due to land off the coast of Togo.
This is Google’s first subsea cable landing in Africa and is therefore, a unique project for both Togo and Google. Having been in the works for 3+ years, the cable will allow for much improved access to the internet for millions of people on the continent.
Equiano’s landing in Togo will not only strengthen Togo’s ability to successfully build and support digital infrastructure that will reap long-term positive economic benefits for Togo, it will additionally yield benefits for its West African neighbours.
An economic impact assessment of Equiano in Togo from Africa Practice and Genesis Analytics, estimates that the subsea cable will add approximately 37,000 new jobs between 2022 and 2025, and increase Togo's economic output by an additional USD 351 million during the same period.
Representing the State, Société d’Infrastructures Numériques (SIN), a public telecommunications asset company, strategically partnered with CSquared, an open access wholesale broadband infrastructure company, to create a joint venture - CSquared Woezon.
Société d'Infrastructures Numériques (SIN) is a state-owned telecommunications asset company and operator created in 2016, to ensure that the digital assets (optic fibre cables and data centre) of the state are properly managed – mainly through public private partnerships.
CSquared is a technology company, making commercially driven investments into broadband-enabling infrastructure throughout Africa. While a basic connection is useful when it comes to Internet access, abundant, affordable broadband can transform communities and help people make the most of opportunities online.
By investing in open-access broadband infrastructure and making it available to local Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and mobile network operators (MNOs), CSquared helps bring high-quality broadband access to Africa’s major cities.
CSquared Woezon is a Togolese company with a minority public shareholding, 56% owned by CSquared and 44% owned by SIN. The entity will maintain and operate the Equiano submarine cable as well as the existing e-Government and Communauté Electrique du Bénin (CEB) terrestrial optic fibre networks located on the Togolese territory.
On the sale of international capacity, CSquared Woezon will provide open access to all national and regional operators on an objective, transparent and non-discriminatory commercial basis, in accordance with industry standards and international best practices.
Speaking on the landing of Equiano, H.E. Madam Cina Lawson, Minister of Digital Economy and Digital Transformation for Togo stated, ‘Broadening the access to high-speed internet is a fundamental part in our national digital development process as we strive towards achieving the objectives set out in our Digital 2025 Strategy.’
She added, ‘As Togo continues to earn its place on the regional and international stage as a digital hub and a favourable ecosystem for innovation and investment, our collaboration with Google and CSquared in successfully landing Equiano further demonstrates Togo’s commitment to enhancing public and social services for all citizens so that they can benefit economically.’
Remarkably, Togo currently ranks as the sixth-best country in Africa regarding ease of doing business, so once Equiano is switched on, it will offer 20 times more bandwidth than any other cable currently serving West Africa. This will help the country attract even more investments and further boost its vibrant startup culture.
Nitin Gajria, Managing Director of Google Sub-Saharan Africa commented, “The landing of Equiano affirms Google’s commitment to the African continent, to support Africa’s digital transformation. 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. 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.”
Lanre Kolade, Group Chief Executive Officer of CSquared shared, ‘CSquared is honoured to be part of Togo’s Digital Strategy, a strategy focused on social inclusion and economic development that will transform the economy with accessible, safe and affordable broadband, across gender, and geography. CSquared Woezon, our joint venture with Société d’Infrastructures Numériques [SIN] will put in place the next generation of connected infrastructure on which the digital ecosystem, the economy and the government can ride.’
‘Beyond the landing of Google's Equiano in Togo, the JV will also manage and rollout Fibre Metros and National Backbone across the country, moving Togo forward on its quest to become a digital hub in West Africa with connectivity into neighbouring countries, Ghana, Benin and Burkina Faso,’ Kolade added.
Attia Byll, Managing Director of SIN stated, “SIN represents a significant tool for the digital development plan of the Togolese territory. Our strategy is to operate and grow through public private partnerships and create joint ventures with investors in order to achieve that goal. We are thrilled by the opportunities that this partnership with CSquared and Google will bring to the people of Togo and the country as a whole".
The subsea cable is named after Olaudah Equiano, a Nigerian-born writer and abolitionist. Google commented that they were proud to name many subsea cable projects after historical luminaries.