Nearshore Americas

Massive Internet Outage Leaves West and Central Africa in the Dark

Parts of West and Central Africa have spent nearly a week plunged in internet darkness following the suspected cut of undersea cables which kept the region online.

The outage began on March 14, when multiple undersea cables off Africa’s west coast were severed. Disruptions were reported in South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire.

While some connectivity has returned, internet access remains unreliable in many areas. Telecom providers warned that the repairs could take several more weeks.

Undersea cable faults are a recurring issue in Africa. The WACS cable experienced two breaks in early 2020, while a 2018 ACE cable breach caused a complete internet blackout in Mauritania for two days.

This latest outage has caused significant disruptions. Microsoft’s South African cloud region went offline for nearly two days, and Vodacom’s data network was unavailable for many subscribers. Stock markets in some countries were forced to extend trading hours due to the interruptions.

Telecom vendor MainOne deployed vessels to investigate the location and conduct repairs. They suspect seismic activity might be the culprit, as four undersea telecommunication cables –West Africa Cable System (WACS), Africa Coast to Europe (ACE), MainOne, and SAT-3– went offline simultaneously. However, the US Geological Survey found no record of earthquakes in the vicinity of the cables.

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It’s been suggested that “other possible seabed activity” could be responsible. The Liberia Telecommunications Authority pointed to an incident involving the ACE cable near Côte d’Ivoire.

Other unconfirmed reports point a missile attack by Yemen’s Houthi rebels on a Belizean fertilizer ship might have damaged the cables.

Narayan Ammachchi

News Editor for Nearshore Americas, Narayan Ammachchi is a career journalist with a decade of experience in politics and international business. He works out of his base in the Indian Silicon City of Bangalore.

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