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Google to build Umoja cable to connect Africa to Australia

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Tech giant Google is building a new undersea fiber optic cable that will connect Africa to Australia.

Google said in a statement that the cable will be called Umoja – derived from a Swahili word for unity – and will have a separate path for Internet traffic compared to the existing cables that connect Africa to the rest of the world.

"Anchored in Kenya, the Umoja cable route will pass through Uganda, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Zambia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa, including the Google Cloud region, before crossing the Indian Ocean to Australia," Google's statement said.

Google added that the Umoja cable's terrestrial path was developed in collaboration with Liquid Intelligent Technologies, to form a scalable route through Africa, including access points that will allow other countries to take advantage of the network.

Together with Equiano, the new combined system will be known as Africa Connect.

The Equiano cable's US$14 billion journey began in Lisbon, Portugal in 2019 and has several stops along the western coast of Africa. The cable has a landing in Melkbosstrand, South Africa, as well as in Swakopmund in Namibia. It runs through Togo, Nigeria and St Helena to connect Africa with Europe.

Google said that the new Umoja cable will enable African countries to connect with each other and the rest of the world more reliably.

Umoja to help maintain resilient network

Google said establishing a new route distinct from existing connectivity routes is critical to maintaining a resilient network for a region that has historically experienced high-impact outages.

"The new intercontinental fiber-optic route will significantly enhance our global and regional digital infrastructure. This initiative is crucial in ensuring the redundancy and resilience of our region's connectivity to the rest of the world, especially considering recent disruptions caused by cuts to subsea cables," said Kenyan President William Ruto.

Anchored in Kenya, the Umoja terrestrial cable will pass through Uganda, Rwanda, DRC, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa before the subsea section crosses the Indian Ocean to Australia.   (Source: freepik)
Anchored in Kenya, the Umoja terrestrial cable will pass through Uganda, Rwanda, DRC, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa before the subsea section crosses the Indian Ocean to Australia.
(Source: freepik)

"Africa's major cities, including Nairobi, Kampala, Kigali, Lubumbashi, Lusaka and Harare, will no longer be hard-to-reach endpoints remote from the coastal landing sites that connect Africa to the world," added Strive Masiyiwa, chairman and founder of Liquid and its parent company Cassava Technologies.

"Diversifying Australia's connectivity and supporting digital inclusion across the globe are both incredibly important objectives, and Google's Umoja cable will help to do just that," Australian Minister for Communications Michelle Rowland chimed in.

Umoja to aid subsea cable disruptions

The Umoja cable comes at a time when several subsea cables linking Africa to the rest of the world have experienced outages that impacted Internet connectivity in 2024.

The first outage was experienced in February, a stricken vessel dragged its anchor through three cables in the Red Sea impacting connectivity in the region.

In March, four cables were damaged when a suspected subsea seismic event occurred off the coast of Abidjan in Côte d'Ivoire on the west coast of Africa, impacting Africa's Internet services.

Follow Connecting Africa on our new X account @connect__africa to get the latest telecoms and tech news across Africa.

Then earlier this month, Internet connectivity in several African countries was disrupted after two subsea cables connecting Southern and East Africa went down, slowing connections and causing widespread outages.

However, work is underway to repair the two cable systems that were damaged last week.

Related posts:

*Top image is of the Umoja cable system route. (Source: Google.)

— Matshepo Sehloho, Associate Editor, Connecting Africa

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