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Last updated at 18:56 GMT, Friday, 14 January 2011

East Africa gets high-speed internet


24 July 2009

One of the great barriers to doing business in Africa is the poor communication links. However that's all about to change, as several undersea fibre optic cables bring broadband internet to the region.

Will Ross

Workers haul part of a fibre optic cable onto the shore at the Kenyan port town of Mombasa

An undersea fibre optic cable bringing broadband internet to east Africa


Click to hear the report:


It has certainly been an ambitious project, laying a seventeen thousand kilometre fibre optic cable under the sea, linking Europe and Asia with East and Southern Africa. In a few weeks there should be fast broadband internet in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Mozambique and South Africa. The Tanzanian president, Jakaya Kikwete, gave a live telecast across the region and trumpeted the event as a major breakthrough.

Jakaya Kikwete
When the whole of Tanzania ..., we be brought into the modern age of communications, e-commerce, e-medicine, e-government, e-everything - that will be the greatest thing in our history.

Here in Kenya there will be a huge sigh of relief. I've just been to the fifteenth floor of an office block where a frustrated Benjamin Waithaka works as an animator. He designs 3 D websites that often can't even be opened because of the slow internet and when he creates designs for clients he can't send them over the net, he has to battle Nairobi's traffic jams to deliver them by hand.

Benjamin Waithaka
Our frustration is actually an understatement for the traffic is sort of mad. Getting your job to a certain destination may take one hour, two hours but with a fibre optic cable then the whole idea of you going through the traffic, well pretty much is not there.

But you're hoping if you can become more efficient as a business that will create more jobs?

Absolutely yes. More jobs, yeah.

In theory the region could be on the brink of an exciting internet revolution. Businesses like call centres could boom here. But it all depends how well the service is rolled out. What is not clear is when the technology might reach the villages where for many accessing a reliable electricity supply and water are still the main priority.

Will Ross, BBC News, East Africa


Click to hear the vocabulary:


an ambitious project

a plan which needs a great amount of effort to be achieved or be successful

fibre optic cable

a wire made of very thin glass or plastic fibres through which light can travel to carry information, used especially in telephone, television and computer systems

broadband internet

access to the web that is very fast and enables many messages or large amounts of information to be sent at the same time between computers or other electronic devices

trumpeted the event

announced or talked proudly about something that is happening

a major breakthrough

an important event which greatly improves the current situation (here, getting a high-speed internet connection)

a huge sigh of relief

a feeling of being suddenly very happy because a difficult situation has ended

send them over the net

use the internet to send them

on the brink of

in a situation where new things are about to begin


grow in number very quickly

rolled out

made available for the first time

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