Damaged cable causes Internet blackout in four West African countries

By: Rebekah Heacock on 29 July 2009

Five days ago, the Appfrica tech blog reported an Internet blackout in Benin, a West African country roughly the size of Ohio. The outage, which also affected neighboring Togo, Niger and Nigeria, was caused by damage to the SAT-3 submarine communications cable, which links Portugal and Spain to South Africa via the West African coastline.

The Internet blackout left Benin, Togo and Niger without an optical fiber link to the outside world, meaning Internet users in these countries have been forced to rely on rare, expensive satellite connections to get online. Appfrica managing editor Theresa Carpenter Sondjo, who is based in Benin, writes:

The line to use the computers runs out the door. Every computer is taken, and most have two or three people hovering over its operator. I am the only woman.

In Nigeria, the damage to the SAT-3 cable has affected approximately 70 percent of the country's bandwidth, "crippling" bank services and Internet access. Access issues in the country are further complicated by the failure of Nigerian telecommunications operator Nitel to pay its dues to the SAT-3 Consortium, which has disconnected the Nigerian end of the cable.

Speaking yesterday to Nigeria's Business Day, Lanre Ajayi, the president of the Nigeria Internet Group, described the cable as "a critical national resource because of its importance to the economy and to security." Ajayi has called on the government to declare the SAT-3 cable a "critical national infrastructure."

When damage to the FLAG and SEA-ME-WE 4 undersea cable systems disrupted service in the Middle East and South Asia, knocking out a substantial percentage of Internet activity in Egypt, India and several other countries, operators were able to reroute service and continue to provide access.

In West Africa, rerouting is more difficult: SAT-3 is the only cable connecting the region to the rest of the world, and telecoms operators must negotiate deals with neighboring countries to direct Internet traffic overland until it reaches another country's landing cable. Benin's landing cable services all four countries affected by the damage. Benin has managed to work out an alternate path that routes traffic through the landing cable in Côte d'Ivoire, but Togo and Niger are unable to afford the necessary deals. They will likely have to rely on satellite access until a repair ship, on its way from South Africa, reaches Benin and fixes the cable. The blackout is expected to last at least 10 days in total.

Strangely, news of the blackout has yet to reach the international media. Though Internet penetration rates in the affected countries are low — Nigeria is the highest, at 7.3 percent; with Togo (5.4 percent), Benin (1.9 percent) and Niger (0.5 percent) following — a blackout of this scale seems to deserve more attention than it's gotten thus far. The lack of press coverage begs the question: if the Internet disappears in four countries, but the countries are in Africa, is it still a story?

Internet blackout in Africa

What a shame about the internet blackout in Africa. Now I can't claim my millions from the Nigerian royal family who can't claim their money and have asked me for assistance via the internet. I guess they will have to live in poverty a little while longer.

I guess that means the

I guess that means the transfer from the Bank of Nigeria to my bank account will be delayed. I was counting on the fortune they said I had inherited!

RE: Damaged cable causes Internet blackout in four West African

So this means I won't be receiving my Nigerian scam e-mails for a while?

this will inevitably become

this will inevitably become known as "The Great Porn Outage of 2009"...

1.9% of the population? I'm

1.9% of the population? I'm sure they'll survive.

419 scams

Sigh... that explains the drop in billion dollar offers I get for signing pieces of paper!


asides being crass and rude, your comment speaks of how ignorant you are about the ICT challenge in Nigeria and Africa.
Well, you are entitled to your opinion, but airing it out on cyberspace is not the best.

African Internet out

Good. Maybe that will stop the scamsters.

Internet Down

"if the Internet disappears in four countries, but the countries are in Africa, is it still a story?"


We have a racist black president that is about to sit down and have a beer with a black race baiter and a white police office that arrested the black race baiter. We have more important things to talk about!!! Get with the game.

Boy, are things in this world messed up.

Yes, it should at least make the news here. But then again, Bush was the president that cared about Africa. Not so much Obama.

Strange no press coverage, yes.

Hm? by the comments, I would wonder if it was not these people here cutting the cable... surely they would do it, if they could. And it is broken in South Africa?.. hm.

tapping the internet?

seems like another cia/nsa/mossad op to tap more underwater communication links to me

Wacko: Anonymous (not verified) on 29 July, 2009 - 19:51

Is Obama a racist against Blacks (his father) or Whites (his mother)? LOL! You wackos crack me up! Carefully read what you wrote. Then change 'black' to 'white'. See if it doesn't crack you up to!!! LOL!

Most of the comments posted

Most of the comments posted above support the last sentence of the article above: nobody cares about Africa. It is irresponsible to make fun of our brothers and sisters in West Africa.

Though only a small percentage of the population uses internet doesn't mean, that a blackout causes fewer damage as it would in a western country. Consider for instance the banking systems.

And I wonder if those, who believe that all 120 Million Nigerians are scammers believe also that all Italians are Mafiosi or all Columbians drugdealers.

Spread the news about the internet blackout instead of making unqualified comments...

"Though only a small

"Though only a small percentage of the population uses internet doesn't mean, that a blackout causes fewer damage as it would in a western country."
You're retarded.


I took 1 st loan when I was a teenager and that helped me a lot. Nevertheless, I require the credit loan also.

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