JOHANNESBURG, Nov 15 (AFP): A giant underwater cable network connecting Africa to Europe and Asia provides Internet access to the planet's poorest continent but only a handful of countries seem to be enjoying its benefits.
The 28,000-kilometre optical fibre cable, named SAT- 3/WASC/SAFE, brings the Internet to Africa but seems to be giving an unfair advantage to coastal countries.
Its first segment, in the Atlantic Ocean, leaves Portugal and goes down to the Cape in South Africa. In the process it reaches eight coastal countries: Senegal, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Benin, Nigeria, Cameroon, Gabon and Angola.
A second segment, in the Indian Ocean, connects South Africa to Malaysia while passing through Mauritius and India.
A joint project funded by 36 countries in Africa and spearheaded by South African telecommunications utility Telkom, SAT-3/WASC/SAFE cost more than 600 million dollars (510 million euros) and will be owned and operated by telecoms utilities in these countries for the next 25 years.
During its inauguration in May 2002, Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade optimistically saluted it as an "integrating project between African countries" where access to the Internet generally remains rare, slow and expensive.