In an interview with Ventures Africa soon after the signing of a $400 million  agreement between Liquid Telecoms and Telecom Egypt in Egypt, Group Executive Chairman of Econet, Liquid Telecom’s parent company, Strive Masiyiwa stressed the importance of data movement in intra-African trade.

The current African Union chairman Paul Kagame is on a mission to connect all of Africa with the “One-Africa” initiative and the African Continental Free Trade Area and to ensure the free movement of people, goods, capital, and services. The movement of Data is also important, and Econet Group Chairman Strive Masiyiwa believes data infrastructures like fiber networks are important to connecting Africa together.

“For intra-African trade; we need to be able to move goods, we need roads connecting, for example, Nigeria to Cameroon, Cameroon to Gabon. We need to have infrastructure; roads, bridges; we need to see the free movement of people. But one of the key pieces is the movement of data. Your mobile phone; behind it is an infrastructure by the mobile operators. Behind the mobile operators are companies like Liquid Telecoms who own physical infrastructures. We (Liquid Telecom) build fiber. These are our networks.” he said.

Pan-African telecom group, Liquid Telecom signed a partnership agreement with Egypt’s state telecom company Telecom Egypt on the sidelines of the Africa 2018 Forum held in Egypt’s resort town of Sham El Sheikh last week. The 3-year 400 million USD agreement will see Liquid Telecom construct fiber network infrastructures in Egypt, and also build data centers in the country.

The agreement represents the culmination of Liquid Telecom’s plans to connect all of Africa together. It completes the telecom company’s ‘Cape to Cairo’ link, while also ensuring connectivity within Egypt.

The “Cape to Cairo” link is a network of fiber-optic that runs from Capetown in South Africa, through major cities in Central and Eastern Africa, Abuja and Dakar in West Africa, before reaching its final berth in North Africa in Cairo, Egypt. The network is almost 70,000km in length, and in 13 African countries.

Liquid Telecom Fiber-cable Network

Present at the agreement were Ahmed El Beheiry, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Telecom Egypt, Strive Masiyiwa – Group Executive Chairman of Liquid Telecom’s parent company Econet, Her Excellency Dr. Sahar Nasr, Egyptian Minister of Investment and International Cooperation, and His Excellency, Dr Amr Talaat, The Egyptian Ministry of Communications and Information Technology.

The Cape to Cairo link will also help to link Egyptian businesses with the rest of Africa, and most importantly, build data infrastructures in the North Africa country. Details of the agreement include an investment of $50 million in data centers and cloud services, and a $350 million investment in broadband and financial inclusion in Egypt.

Liquid Telecom signing in Sharm El-Sheikh

“In South Africa alone, we have 3,000km of Fiber in the ground. Fiber connects the networks of the mobile operators; they don’t own the fibers, we do. They are our costumers; we are interconnecting them together” Strive said. “These are the fiber networks we’ve built. From South Africa, up through East Africa, right up to Egypt. We’ve completed Egypt now. Our announcement is that we are now connecting these countries with Egypt. But we are also building the fiber network within the country. Hence, we are not just connecting, we have to lay the fiber through the whole regions.”

Liquid Telecom’s next project will be linking Cairo with Dakar, the capital city of Senegal in West Africa through Sudan, Chad, and Nigeria. The telecom company hopes to connect the rest of West Africa with the fiber network by the end of President El-Sisi’s term in office as AU chairman. Egypt’s El-Sisi will replace President Paul Kagame as AU chairman in next year’s AU summit.

Mr. Masiyiwa expressed his appreciation for Kagame’s support across the continent. He said the ‘One Africa’ model could encourage other entrepreneurs to build projects in complementary sectors, such as rail and power. “We need to push the linkage of our continental power grids, and also rail and air transportation. Now is the time for bold initiatives to build intra-African trade and investment.”

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