MainOne Trying to Become West Africa’s Main Broadband Plug

  • MainOne is investing $300 million in broadband infrastructure across West Africa
  • Africa’s internet penetration grew 20% in 2017, the highest in the world

West African telecommunications provider MainOne has big plans to further establish itself as one of the premier providers in West Africa. CEO Funke Opeke announced the company would be investing $300 million over 10 years in infrastructure for shared fiber networks, data centers, and cloud computing. Will this investment be a shot in the arm for technology companies seeking to increase their contributions to the global economy?

Why This Matters: Strong broadband connectivity is critical for Africa-based technology companies to compete globally. Emerging technological advancements like artificial intelligence and the internet of things require large amounts of connectivity. They also produce significant amounts of data. MainOne’s investment addresses these needs and positions technology companies in the eight West African countries it serves to better compete globally.

What is the status of broadband connectivity across Africa? The continent has the highest broadband penetration growth rates in the world. Last year, penetration rates increased 20% according to research by We Are Social and Hootsuite. Currently, there are 1.04 billion mobile connections and 435 million internet users across the continent. While the penetration rates are growing rapidly, African countries have 17 of the 30 slowest landline internet speeds in the world. The performance of wireless internet speeds is not a lot better, but Kenya (13.7 Mbps) and Egypt (12.2 Mbps) stand out as having faster average connection speeds than the U.S. (10 Mbps).

Situational Awareness: African countries’ power supply has been a consistent thorn in the side of industry productivity for decades. Only seven African countries have access to electricity available to at least 50% of their populations. Technology companies tend to include backup generator power into their cost structures, a factor not present for their competitors in the U.S. and Europe. Power industry players like the Dangote Group, Fraym, the Blackstone Group (BX -0.97%), and USAID’s Power Africa initiative are bringing a host of solutions to address this challenge.

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