This entry is part 8 of 9 in the series Annual Review

Welcome to the 8th annual review of telecommunications infrastructure development in Africa. It is hard to believe that another year in which most of us have operated remotely, spending large parts of our days in front of our web cameras. This is my summary of the highlights telecom infrastructure development in 2021 as well as links to over 270 articles covering a range of African telecom infrastructure development issues.

Undersea Cables

The continued increase in capacity and number of undersea cables reaching the shores of African countries is truly a wonder to watch. The METISS cable linking Madagascar, Reunion, and Mauritius with South Africa went live March. DARE-1, an undersea cable connecting Kenya with Somalia and Djibouti went live in February. EllaLink, which stretches from Latin America to Europe went into operation in June, connecting Cabo Verde, Mauritania, and Morocco along the way. Last but not least, the ACE cable finally connected its second phase reaching all the way down to South Africa. That’s a lot of new capacity. But wait, there’s more.

All of those new cables together will not match the capacity of either of the two massive silicon-valley funded cables, Equiano and 2Africa led by Google and Facebook respectively. For Equiano, which promises to go live in 2022, things have been pretty quiet, which is perhaps not surprising given how little news has been released by Google about the cable since its original announcement. Google did announce a partnership with Paratus to land the cable in Namibia but not much else made the news. 2Africa also announced new partnerships to land the 2africa cable in Angola, Comoros, south eastern Nigeria, and the Seychelles. 2Africa is projected to go live in 2023.

Although not in the same capacity class as Equiano and 2Africa, the China-financed PEACE cable is set to go live in early 2022, connecting Egypt, Djibouti, Somalia, Kenya, and the Seychelles to Pakistan.

Changing hands in 2021 was MainOne, which was sold to Equinix for $320M. Pioneered by Nigerian entrepreneur Funke Opeke, MainOne was first of a new generation of high-capacity undersea cables to reach West Africa in 2010. MainOne stood out as being one of the few independent undersea cable initiatives.

Africa-12021-01-29TelegeographyCable Compendium: a guide to the week’s submarine and terrestrial developments
PEACE2021-01-29NikkeiChina builds Digital Silk Road in Pakistan to Africa and Europe - Nikkei Asia
Africa-12021-02-01ExtensiaAlcatel Submarine Networks initiated the deployment of the Africa-1 fiber optic submarine system
METISS2021-03-23ExtensiaMadagascar’s Telma links up on METTIS cable to bolster broadband
DARE-12021-03-31ExtensiaDare-1 Cable System Now In Service
METISS2021-04-15ITWeb AfricaMETISS: Cable connecting SA, Mauritius, Reunion, Madagascar goes live
METISS2021-05-06ITWebTeraco boosts regional interconnection with MÉTISS cable
ELLALINK2021-06-04TelegeographyCable Compendium: a guide to the week’s submarine and terrestrial developments
ACE2021-07-14ITWebAFR-IX telecom enhances connectivity in Africa with arrival of ACE submarine cable in SA
WACS2021-07-14MediumConsumers hardly notice when sharks and spies bite into their data as it moves across the ocean floor. | by Kristi Pelzel | Global Perspectives | Jul, 2021 | Medium
2Africa2021-08-17The Nation - NigeriaFacebook includes Nigeria, others in its undersea cable
2Africa2021-08-17QuartzSeychelles, Comoros and Angola added to Facebook cable project
2Africa2021-09-13ExtensiaDalkom secures € 12 million from EIB to connect Somalia to new fiber optic submarine system
PEACE2021-10-21Capacity MediaPEACE Cable and PCCW Global selects Infinera ICE6 solution
2Africa2021-12-31Total TelecomFacebook and co to add additional branches to 2Africa cable system | total telecom
ACE2021-12-31Total TelecomACE submarine cable brings connectivity to West Coast of Africa | total telecom
Equiano2021-02-22Submarine Cable NetworksParatus and Telecom Namibia to Land Equiano Cable in Namibia
ELLALINK2021-12-31Total TelecomEllaLink completes marine installation and selects Infinera to light network

Terrestrial Backbone Fibre

As a natural extension of undersea connectivity, investment in terrestrial fibre networks also grew in 2021. As with 2020, there were more cross-border fibre announcements including Cameroon-Chad, Cameroon-Gabon, Tanzania-Mozambique and others. This is good news for redundancy of network routes but also hopefully for lower costs, especially for land-locked countries, as more international access options appear.

2021 also saw the continued rise of regional fibre powerhouses such as Liquid Intelligent Technologies (formerly Liquid Telecom) who now have terrestrial fibre reaching from South Africa to Egypt and from Kenya to DRC. West Africa may be next as Liquid have announced a partnership with Orange. They are not the only regional players though. Paratus has expanded from Namibia into the Southern African region. BCS in have fibre infrastructure throughout East Africa. Regional operators like MTN and Orange are not far behind in establishing regional backbones.

Also notable this year was the continuing trend of power companies investing in fibre, often partnering with telcos to offer services.

Côte d'Ivoire2021-01-18Africa Business +Strive Masiyiwa’s Liquid Telecom sets first milestone in Ivory Co...
Côte d'Ivoire2021-12-31Ecofin AgencyKaydan Group plans optical fiber investments in Côte d''Ivoire
AngolaParatus2021-09-07ITWeb Africa600km Angola to DRC fibre optic link goes live Africa
Botswana2021-01-08Tech in AfricaLiquid Telecom Expansion to Botswana
Botswana2021-05-10ITWeb AfricaLiquid directs new internet route into Botswana Africa
BotswanaParatus2021-12-31Ecofin AgencyBotswana: Paratus pumps $6mln into optical fiber grid project
Burkina Faso2021-02-08Agence EcofinLe Burkina Faso fait du développement du réseau de fibre optique une priorité en 2021
Burkina Faso2021-07-12Agence EcofinLe Burkina Faso bientôt quadrillé par 800 km de fibre optique urbaine et 900 caméras de surveillance
Burkina Faso2021-12-31Ecofin AgencyBurkinabe govt to build 800km of optical fiber and install 900 surveillance cameras
Cameroon2021-06-06Agence EcofinLe Cameroun et le Congo bientôt reliés par fibre optique
Cameroon, Chad2021-12-31Business in CameroonCameroon and Chad signs new memorandum governing optical fiber transmission networks’ interconnection
DRC2021-02-04Agence EcofinLa RDC et Benya Capital ont finalisé un contrat d’installation de 16 000 km de fibre optique
DRC2021-03-19ITWeb AfricaLiquid confirms fibre rollout in DRC Africa
DRC2021-03-19Capacity MediaLiquid expands to DRC with 2,500km fibre network
DRC2021-06-28Agence EcofinRD Congo : l’Egyptien Benya Capital peut démarrer la pose de la fibre optique sur l’ensemble du territoire national
DRC2021-07-26Capacity MediaDRC spends $35m on project for new fibre and upgrades
DRC2021-12-31Ecofin AgencyEgyptian Benya Capital ready to build an optical fiber network in DR Congo
DRC2021-12-31Ecofin AgencyEgyptian Benya Capital to install 16,000 km of optical fiber in DR Congo
Egypt2021-12-31Ecofin Agency1,300 Egyptian villages to soon be connected to optical fiber
Gabon, Cameroon2021-07-19ITWeb AfricaCameroon, Gabon fibre interconnection now operational Africa
Ghana2021-04-19MyJoyOnlineGRIDCo releases excess fibre capacity to CSquared for broadband distribution -
Ghana2021-04-20Ghanaian TimesAccess to internet: GRICO, CSquared sign pact
Kenya2021-02-25Business Daily AfricaFibre optic network needs a rethink
Kenya2021-03-01Business Daily AfricaSplit in government over takeover of Sh16 billion fibre optic from Telkom Kenya
Kenya2021-05-03Business TodayKenya Power Eyes Telco Billions With Fibre Optic Network Extension
Kenya2021-05-03Business Daily AfricaKenya Power eyes telcos in 600km internet cables plan
Kenya2021-05-19Agence EcofinKenya : le distributeur d’énergie électrique KPLC veut ajouter 678,5 km de fibre optique à son réseau
Liberia2021-11-03Liberian ObserverUS$10M Investment for Liberia’s Digital Transformation
Madagascar2021-01-18Developing TelecomsGulfsat licensed as Madagascar’s second backbone operator
Malawi2021-06-28ITWeb AfricaMalawi launches second phase of national fibre backbone project Africa
Mauritania2020-12-23Biztech AfricaZTE completes the deployment of Mauritania’s first national backbone network
Mauritania2021-12-10Agence EcofinMauritanie : le ministère de la Transition numérique a inauguré le dernier tronçon du réseau national de fibre optique
Niger2021-08-25Agence EcofinNiger : Airtel investit 5,7 millions $ pour déployer la fibre optique de Zinder jusqu’à la frontière avec le Nigeria
Nigeria2021-01-27ExtensiaNigeria: 2 years after obtaining operating licenses, infrastructure operators are desired
Nigeria2021-08-26Capacity MediaNiger’s second city gets Airtel fibre link to Nigerian borde
Regional2021-03-15IFCOne Million Kilometers of Fiber Optic Cables for Development | by IFC | Medium
Regional2021-06-02ITWeb AfricaLiquid lays 100 000km fibre connectivity across Africa Africa
Regional2021-07-06ITWeb AfricaLiquid, Facebook team up to construct fibre corridor Africa
RegionalOrange2021-10-28TechzimLiquid & Orange partner to expand network reach across Africa
Sierra Leone2021-02-11Sierra Express MediaFinance Ministry raise red flag on Fibre Optic Cable Contract – Sierra Express Media
South Africa2021-03-29TechCentralNew long-distance fibre routes to connect Durban, Cape Town
South Africa2021-03-30ITWebLiquid completes 1 700km fibre lines in SA
South AfricaMTN2021-05-25ITWebMTN lights up SA’s digital highway with completion of Coastal National Long Distance cable project
South Africa2021-06-10MyBroadbandUnited States in surprise fibre rollout investment in South Africa
South AfricaMTN2021-07-02Mail & GuardianMTN lights up SA’s digital highway with completion of coastal national long-distance cable project
Tanzania2021-08-31Daily News TanzaniaTZ Reaps Dividends From Fibre Optic Cable
Tanzania2021-09-08Daily News TanzaniaTTCL to parnter with TANESCO to extend national fibre optic network
Tanzania2021-09-10Capacity MediaTanzania to route national fibre extension along electricity
Tanzania2021-10-25Habari LEOState Allocates 170BN/- to Strengthen Security in Cities
Tanzania2021-10-27Agence EcofinTanzanie : le gouvernement a alloué 73,7 millions $ à l’extension du réseau national de fibre optique
Tanzania2021-12-08ITWeb AfricaTanzania sets aside TZS170bn to reinforce ICT backbone
Tanzania2021-12-31Ecofin AgencyTanzania: Govt invests $73.7mln to expand the national fiber grid
Tanzania, Mozambique2021-04-04The Citizen - TanzaniaTanzania, Mozambique ink broadband deal - The Citizen
Tanzania, Mozambique2021-04-07Capacity MediaTanzania extends broadband backbone to Mozambique border
Togo2021-01-15Togo FirstTogo: New decree makes deploying fiber optics compulsory for some construction projects
Togo, MoroccoMoov2021-02-05Togo FirstMoov-Africa to deploy submarine cable from Casablanca to Lomé
Togo, MoroccoMoov2021-02-05OSIRISMoov-Africa va déployer un câble sous-marin entre le Maroc et le Togo
Togo, MoroccoMoov2021-02-05Agence EcofinMoov-Africa va déployer un câble sous-marin entre le Maroc et le Togo
Togo, MoroccoMoov2021-02-05Lome InfosTogo: Moov-Africa va déployer un câble sous-marin entre Casablanca (Maroc) et Lomé. – Lome Infos | Actualité du Togo
Uganda2021-01-22TechJajaLiquid Telecom applies for two new operating licenses from UCC
Uganda2021-06-02World BankUganda Secures $200 million to Accelerate Digital Transformation and Inclusiveness
Uganda, Tanzania2021-06-07Capacity MediaWorld Bank awards $350m to Tanzania and Uganda broadband
West Africa2021-04-09Capacity MediaWest Africa states sign deal to manage international fibre n
ZambiaMTN2021-05-05Tech FinancialsMTN Establishes First FibreCo In Zambia As Part of Plans To Spin Off Fibre Business | TechFinancials


Five years ago, news of investment in FTTH services spoke of reaching only a few thousand customers. In 2021, we see news articles about FTTH services threatening the mobile industry itself. It is worth reflecting on how big a change this represents to FTTH services breathing down the neck of MNOs most lucrative markets. Much of this is driven by demand for OTT services, although uptake of OTT service providers like Netflix, Showmax, and other is still hampered by high data costs. If fibre access costs can be brought in line with costs elsewhere in the word, fibre optic infrastructure will have at least as big an impact on African telecommunications as mobile has had.

FTTHUgandaMTN2021-01-29TechJajaMTN reportedly introduces fiber to the home service in Uganda
FTTHUgandaMTN2021-02-08TelegeographyMTN Uganda launches home fibre access
FTTHSouth AfricaVumatel2021-03-25Business Insider South AfricaVumatel is now turning a R50 million profit per month – and growing fast
FTTHSouth AfricaMetroFibre2021-03-25Capacity MediaSouth Africa’s MetroFibre borrows $169 million to expand net
FTTHBurkina FasoVivendi2021-06-08TelegeographyGroup Vivendi Africa launches FTTH services in Ouagadougou
FTTHSouth Africa2021-07-20TechCentralRevenge of the fixed lines: How fibre threatens mobile in South Africa
FTTHKenyaSeacom2021-10-27ITWeb AfricaSeacom acquires metro network from Kenya’s Hirani Telecom
FTTHSouth Africa2021-11-09TechCentralStanlib, New GX Investments to pump billions into township fibre
FTTHNamibiaParatus2021-11-16africanews.Paratus and Ongos Connect to Bring a Fiber Connectivity Transformation in Ongos Valley
FTTHNamibiaParatus2021-11-16ITWeb AfricaParatus Namibia lands smart city fibre deal
FTTHDRCCsquared2021-11-28Actualite CDCSquared déploie l’infrastructure fibre optique en RDC pour booster la connectivité au très haut débit 
FTTHDRCCsquared2021-11-29Agence EcofinCSquared a démarré ses activités en RD Congo avec l’ambition de rendre la connectivité à haut débit plus abordable
FTTHSouth Africa2021-12-25MyBroadbandWhat happened with South Africa’s fibre rollouts in 2021
FTTHBurkina FasoOrange2021-12-31Ecofin AgencyOrange enters the optical fiber segment in Burkina Faso
OTTSouth Africa2021-06-29MemeburnNetflix officially launches mobile plan in South Africa - price and details
OTTSouth Africa2021-03-01Broadcasting and MediaBroadcast Media Africa
OTTRegional2021-01-11Broadcasting and MediaStreaming: OTT Services Across Africa Expected To Generate US$1.73 Billion By 2026

Licensed Spectrum

While LTE networks continue to expand on the continent, very little new spectrum was released to operators. A notable exception was the Zambian regulator that released 2x10MHz tranches of 800MHz spectrum to Airtel and MTN for $12.5M and $13.5M respectively.

The Nigerian regulator also held an auction of the 3.5GHz band in December which saw successful bids of $273M (more than $75M higher than the reserve price) from MTN and newcomer Mafab for tranches of 100MHz each. While may have been a windfall for the treasury, it is hard to see how this particular release of spectrum will contribute to closing the digital divide in Nigeria. The high cost of spectrum combined with the 3.5GHz frequency that is best suited to urban broadband seems likely to ensure that little of this spectrum will serve those most in need of affordable broadband.

In South Africa, the drama of a spectrum auction that has been over 10 years in the making looks like it will be renewed for another season. So many lessons to be learned here. Economists argue that auctions are the most efficient and fair mechanism for assigning spectrum but the reality of their implementation does not always seem to match up with their aspirations.

5GKenyaSafaricom2021-01-05The East AfricanSafaricom puts 5G rollout on hold - The East African
5GKenyaSafaricom2021-03-25Business Daily AfricaSafaricom to launch 5G network Friday in Nairobi and western Kenya
5GMali2021-07-09TelegeographyOrange Mali tests 5G
5GSouth AfricaVodacom MTN2021-12-31Total TelecomTelecoms towers torched in South Africa over 5G fears
5GRegional2021-03-15World BankWorld Bank Document - Policy-Choices-Can-Help-Keep-4G-and-5G-Universal-Broadband-Affordable.pdf
AuctionNigeria2021-03-31Developing TelecomsInterview: Airtel Africa’s Razvan Ungureanu
AuctionNigeria2021-09-06Broadcast Media AfricaNigeria: Federal Government To Start 5G Spectrum Auction At US$ 2.6 Billion - Broadcast Media Africa (BMA)
AuctionNigeria3.5GHz2021-11-14Punch NigeriaGrowing concerns over Nigeria’s 5G spectrum auction - Punch Newspapers
AuctionZambia800MHz2021-02-03TelegeographyZICTA calls for applications for block of 800MHz spectrum
AuctionNigeria800MHzMTN2021-03-12ITWeb AfricaMTN Nigeria secures additional spectrum
AuctionSouth Africa2021-09-07TechCentralIcasa consents to court order setting aside spectrum ITA
AuctionSouth Africa2021-10-01TechCentralIcasa sets timetable to auction spectrum by March 2022
AuctionSouth Africa2021-10-01News24Icasa announces new deadlines for spectrum auction
AuctionNigeria2021-10-11LeadershipNCC Sets Reserve Price For 5G Spectrum Auction At $197.4m
AuctionNigeria3.5GHz2021-11-05Premium Times'5G: MTN, Airtel want Nigeria''s $197 million licence fee slashed'
AuctionNigeria3.5GHz2021-11-07The Nation - NigeriaNCC insists on $197 million for 5G spectrum - The Nation Newspaper
AuctionNigeria3.5GHz2021-11-09TechNextNCC to auction 5G spectrum on Dec 13, insists on N75bn reserve price
AuctionNigeria3.5GHz2021-12-02Mobile World LiveNigeria clears trio of bidders for 5G auction - Mobile World Live
AuctionNigeria3.5GHz2021-12-02NairametricsNCC announces MTN, Airtel, another firm as qualified bidders for 3.5 Ghz spectrum
AuctionNigeria3.5GHz2021-12-03Developing TelecomsAirtel, MTN and newcomer Mafab set for Nigerian 5G auction
AuctionNigeria3.5GHzMTN, Mafab2021-12-13Premium TimesAirtel loses as MTN, Mafab win bid for 5G spectrum
AuctionNigeria3.5GHz2021-12-13The Guardian - Nigeria'Nigeria''s 5G auction price rises to $209.4m | The Guardian Nigeria News - Nigeria and World News — Technology — The Guardian Nigeria News – Nigeria and World News'
AuctionNigeria3.5GHz2021-12-14This DayFG Rakes in Fresh $547m as MTN, Mafab Win 3.5GHz Spectrum Auction
AuctionNigeria3.5GHzMafab2021-12-16TechNext'The question of Tinubu''s involvement in MAFAB amid NCC''s assurance'
AuctionNigeria3.5GHzMafab2021-12-16Business Post'5G Auction: NCC Denies Knowledge of Tinubu''s Link With Mafab'
AuctionNigeria3.5GHZ2021-12-19LeadershipHow Mafab’s Founder Fought His Way To 5G Licence
LTENigeria3.5GHz2021-01-18Developing TelecomsTizeti rolls out affordable LTE in Southern Nigeria
LTESenegal2021-03-01TelegeographyExpresso obtains 4G licence
LTESouth Sudan2021-03-08Developing TelecomsDeveloping Telecoms
LTEMauritaniaMoov2021-04-08TelegeographyLucky 13 for Moov Mauritel 4G
LTEMauritania2021-08-28Agence EcofinMauritanie : Chinguitel lance à son tour la 4G, huit mois après Mauritel et Mattel
LTELibya2021-09-02Agence EcofinLibye : Libyana, Al- Madar et Libya Telecom and Technology initient la couverture 4G du sud du pays
LTENigeriaMTN2021-10-28Capacity MediaMTN Nigeria to raise $220 million to extend 4G network
LTEZimbabwe2021-10-28TelegeographyEconet embarks on network expansion project
LTEKenyaTelkom2021-11-02ITWeb AfricaTelkom Kenya announces US$100m network expansion
LTEMauritania2021-11-30Agence EcofinMauritanie : rivale de Mauritel et Chinguitel, Mattel a entamé l’extension de sa couverture 4G au-delà de Nouakchott
LTEBenin2021-11-30TelegeographyMTN Benin to cover 75% of the population with 4G this year
LTEKenya2021-12-31Ecofin AgencyKenya: Telkom invests $100mln to expand its 4G network
LTESomalia2021-12-31Ecofin AgencySomalia: Hormuud Telecom plans full 4G coverage by 2023
LTETanzania2021-12-31Ecofin AgencyTanzania: Airtel upgrades its 4G network
SpectrumGhanaMTN2021-09-28ITNews AfricaMTN Announces 5G Roll Out Date in Ghana - IT News Africa - Up to date technology news, IT news, Digital news, Telecom news, Mobile news, Gadgets news, Analysis and Reports
SpectrumZambia800MHz2021-01-04ITWeb AfricaAirtel secures spectrum as Zambia advances 5G strategy
SpectrumGhana2021-02-16BNN BloombergGhana Plans to Relax Telecom Licensing Rules to Lower Data Costs
SpectrumGhana2021-02-17Kahawa TunguGhana to Alter Spectrum Regulations to Reduce Data Costs -
SpectrumGhana2021-02-23ITWeb AfricaRuralStar Ghana project targets potential 4.5m disconnected
SpectrumZambia800MHzMTN2021-03-24ITWeb AfricaMTN Zambia secures additional spectrum
SpectrumKenya2021-05-17OtherTowards a Licensing and Shared Spectrum Framework for Community Networks in Kenya - YouTube
SpectrumKenya2021-05-19The Standard KenyaState to waive license fees on local Internet
SpectrumSouth Africa2021-05-21TechCentralIcasa licenses 5G spectrum to SMEs, raising hackles
SpectrumTogo2021-09-06ITWeb AfricaTogo looks to secure share of US$10bn China fund to advance digital migration
SpectrumNigeria900MHz, 1800MHzMTN2021-09-10TelegeographyMTN renews Nigerian licence for a further ten years
SpectrumNigeria2021-07-06Broadcasting and MediaNigeria: Govt. Agency Surpassed Its Revenue Projection For Spectrum Fees In 2021
SpectrumKenya2021-05-11CA KenyaPublic Consultation On Draft Licensing And Shared Spectrum Framework For Community Networks In Kenya - Communications Authority of Kenya - Communications Authority of Kenya
SpectrumZambia800MHz2020-12-29Zambia ReportsAirtel Granted Radio Spectrum by ZICTA
SpectrumZambia800MHz2021-01-05Developing TelecomsCould spectrum award boost Airtel Zambia’s 5G prospects?

Unlicensed and Dynamic Spectrum

It was a quiet news year for license exempt spectrum in Africa, although the WiFi Alliance did publish a report estimating the economic contribution of WiFi in African countries which is worth a read.

In TVWS spectrum, the Kenyan regulator formally released their TVWS framework in May although negotiations are still ongoing regarding a geo-location database service provider. In Nigeria, TVWS consultation appears to have stalled after being launched in December of 2020. As things currently stand, TVWS seems likely to continue struggle for adoption unless regulators work to significantly lower the barriers to access and implement the technology.

TVWSSouth Africa2021-03-03TechCentralTV white spaces in South Africa is now ready for commercial lift-off - TechCentral
TVWSKenya2021-05-15CA KenyaSpectrum Sharing Strategies - Communications Authority of Kenya - Communications Authority of Kenya
WiFiRegional2021-01-01WiFi AllianceEconomic value of Wi-Fi® forecast in Africa, Middle East, and India | Wi-Fi Alliance
WiFiUganda2021-01-29Red PepperUCC to distribute free internet-connected Solar Tablets to Rural Areas – Red Pepper Uganda
WiFiSouth Africa2021-03-04Mining ReviewFree community Wi-Fi in South Africa reaches 100 million mark
WiFiRegional2021-05-10Capacity MediaFacebook hires Eutelsat to offer Wifi in 12 African countrie
WiFiBenin2021-06-29Agence EcofinBénin : en partenariat avec la SODEBRA, Isocel transforme les bars, maquis et restaurant en points d’accès Wi-Fi
WiFiSouth Africa2021-11-03RestofWorldSouth African students are selling school Wi-Fi passwords for lunch money - Rest of World
WiFiMalawi2021-12-30Public Private Partnership CommissionGovernment Launches Public Free WI-FI - News - The Public Private Partnership Commission


The great tower sell-off continued in 2021 as tower operators continued to acquire tower assets from mobile network operators. One of the largest tower operators, IHS, launched an IPO in October.

South AfricaVodacom, MTN2021-12-31Total TelecomTelecoms towers torched in South Africa over 5G fears
RegionalAirtel2021-03-23TechCentralHelios to buy thousands of Airtel Africa towers
RegionalAirtel2021-03-23The Economic TimesAirtel Africa: Airtel Africa sells tower units in Madagascar, Malawi to Helios for $108 million, to sell more in Chad, Gabon
TanzaniaAirtel2021-06-03The Citizen - TanzaniaAirtel Africa sells Tanzania towers at $175 million - The Citizen
TanzaniaAirtel2021-06-03ITWeb AfricaAirtel Africa sells tower portfolio in Tanzania for US$175m
NigeriaEastcastle2021-06-29ITWeb AfricaJoint investment of US$130m into Africa’s telecommunications tower market
RegionalIHS2021-10-04ITWebIHS Towers kicks off IPO
Mali2021-10-27RestofWorldJihadist attackers have a new target in Mali: telecom towers
South AfricaVodacom2021-11-15TechCentralVodacom to spin off tower portfolio in South Africa
South AfricaMTN2021-11-17ITWeb AfricaMTN SA concludes R6bn tower sale, leaseback deal with IHS
RegionalIHS2021-11-22The National'Mobile tower operator IHS Holding''s losses widen in third quarter'
SenegalHelios2021-12-31Total TelecomHelios Towers invests $200m in Senegal as African expansion continues


Datacentre investment continued to climb in 2021. Major fibre operators like Liquid and Paratus are expanding their investments in datacentres as a natural complement to their fibre networks. Dedicated datacentre companies like Raxio in East Africa and N+ONE in West Africa also launched new datacentres in 2021. Also significant was the acquisition of undersea cable operator MainOne by global internet infrastructure company Equinix. In addition to their eponymous undersea cable, MainOne operate datacentres in Nigeria and Ghana. Equinix’s acquisition may presage a more significant investment in datacentres across the continent.

NigeriaADC2021-04-06TechCentralAfrica Data Centres to build 10MW Lagos facility
NigeriaADC2021-04-06ITWeb AfricaAfrica Data Centres cements West Africa hub with Lagos datacentre
SenegalN+One2021-04-07Agence EcofinSénégal : N+ONE investit dans la construction de trois centres de données interconnectés
ZimbabweEconet2021-04-09The Zimbabwe MailEconet’s to invest in data centres on the African continent
UgandaRaxio2021-06-15Monitor - UgandaNew data centre keeps other companies’ data - Daily Monitor
GhanaMainOne2021-06-22ITWeb AfricaMainOne readies to launch new datacentre in Accra
Namibia ZambiaParatus2021-07-02ITWeb AfricaParatus Africa readies to open datacentres in Zambia, Namibia
ZambiaParatus2021-07-26ITWeb AfricaParatus Zambia opens new datacentre in Lusaka
RegionalADC2021-09-03TechCentralADC to pump billions into 10 new Africa data centres
ZambiaParatus2021-10-05ITWeb AfricaParatus Zambia’s well-timed new datacentre
South AfricaOracle2021-10-10Tech FinancialsUS-Based Oracle Is Planning To Build Its First Data Centre In Africa
South AfricaOracle2021-10-13TechCentral'US firm Vantage to build R15-billion data centre campus in Jo''burg'
South Africa2021-10-29ITWeb AfricaSA alone accounts for majority of Africa’s datacentre capacity
RegionalEconet2021-11-08TechCentral'World Bank''s IFC backs Liquid in Africa growth push'
KenyaADC2021-11-12Data Center DynamicsAfrica Data Centres announces two facilities in Nairobi, Kenya - DCD
South AfricaWIOCC2021-11-24MyBroadbandMajor undersea cable operator raises R3.2 billion — will fund data centre in Durban
NigeriaADC2021-04-09Agence EcofinAfrica Data Centres étoffe son réseau de centres de données d’Afrique en investissant au Nigeria


The broadband-from-space race heated up in 2021 with OneWeb recovering from bankruptcy thanks to investment from both the UK and India. Spacex Starlink launched a phenomenal number of satellites with over 1800 now in orbit. Both OneWeb and Starlink have been actively soliciting African partners. Whether either satellite operator has a service that is appropriate in African countries remains to be seen. Starlink terminals cost $500 each and incur a monthly fee of $99 dollars making them an expensive option for anyone. Whether they may prove useful for as a backhaul provider for small rural networks remains to be seen.

The LEO satellite constellation news in 2021 was anything but boring. Not to be outdone by the likes of Starlink, the Rwandan government applied for a permission at the ITU to launch 327,320 satellites! No one seems to be quite clear what that is all about.

Also interesting are smaller LEO satellite startups like ASTMobile and Lynk who announced partnerships with UTL in Uganda and Aliv and Telecel Centrafrique in the Central African Republic respectively. Both Lynk and ASTMobile claim to offer “base stations in the sky” which allow mobile phones to communicate directly with satellites. Whether this proves to be technically and/or commercially feasible remains to be seen.

Last but not least, traditional geosynchronous satellite operators were also busy with SES, Eutelsat, and Yahsat all announcing new operator partnerships in 2021.

South AfricaSpaceX2021-02-10MyBroadbandSpaceX Starlink Internet service pre-orders open in South Africa
South AfricaSpaceX2021-02-12MyBroadbandSpaceX and ICASA begin discussions over Starlink in South Africa
Central African RepublicSES2021-02-16SESRevolutionising Connectivity to Bridge the Digital Divide in the Central African Republic
South AfricaSpaceX2021-04-21MyBroadbandElon Musk’s SpaceX must have black ownership to launch Starlink in South Africa – ICASA
NigeriaSpaceX2021-05-10Capacity MediaNCC hosts SpaceX delegation to discuss Starlink Nigeria
RegionalYahsat2021-07-14Capacity MediaYahsat CEO shares launch plans following ADX debut
NigeriaGovernment2021-09-21Premium TimesNigeria sets up two new satellite companies
RegionalOneWeb2021-10-27Space In AfricaEast-Africa to Benefit from OneWeb’s Partnership with Neom Tech
TanzaniaEutelsat, Vodacom2021-12-03Capacity MediaEutelsat and Vodacom to deliver connectivity in Tanzania
Central African RepublicLynk2021-12-31Ecofin AgencyLynk signs Aliv and Telecel Centrafrique – first clients for its LEO satellite service
South AfricaSpaceX2021-12-31Ecofin AgencyS. Africa: SpaceX’s broadband service Starlink to be available in 2022
UgandaUTL2021-08-10Chimp ReportsUganda Telecom Partners with AST SpaceMobile for 100% Network Coverage across Uganda
RegionalEutelsat2021-05-07Business WireEutelsat Expands Use of Express Wi-Fi in Partnership With Facebook to Extend Wi-Fi Connectivity Throughout Sub-Saharan Africa
RwandaGovernment2021-10-14Space In AfricaRwanda has submitted ITU filing for 27 orbital shells of 327,320 satellites


The following table is a grab bag of African telecom issues that have caught my attention in 2021. The range of announcements of investment plans in African telecoms is interesting, ranging from Google and Facebook to the World Bank and CDC. Also notable is the introduction of a new class of operator license by the Kenyan regulator aimed at non-profit community network operators. As the pressure to provide affordable broadband access to all citizens increases, thanks in no small part to the global pandemic, there is a need for new business models and new kinds of operators that can provide services where the incumbents have little or no interest. Hopefully 2022 will see other regulators act in a similar manner.

ChinaMalawi2021-06-26Xinhua'Malawi gov''t hails Huawei for enhancing information technology'
ChinaRegional2021-12-01RestofWorldThe real reason China is pushing “digital sovereignty” in Africa
ChinaBenin2021-12-31Ecofin AgencyBenin and China ink US$40 mln loan agreement for supplemental backbone project
Community NetworksKenya2021-07-17The Star KenyaKIVUVA, GITHAIGA: Chamas can now provide internet services to communities
Community NetworksRegional2021-11-18Thompson Reuter Foundation News'Bridging Africa''s digital divide: The rise of community internet'
Community NetworksNigeria2021-12-12Tech MirrorDigital Inclusion: CITAD Advocates Development Of Community Networks In Nigeria
Digital MigrationMozambique2021-09-27ITWeb AfricaMozambique announces migration to digital broadcasting
Digital MigrationSouth Africa2021-10-01TechCentralCabinet reaffirms analogue TV switch-off plan
InvestmentRegionalGoogle2020-11-11IFCe-Conomy Africa 2020 - Africa’s $180 Billion Internet Economy Future
InvestmentEthiopiaVodacom2021-05-22TechCentralVodacom consortium wins Ethiopia operating licence
InvestmentEthiopiaSafaricom, Vodacom2021-05-26Developing TelecomsHow will Ethiopia’s new licence winner structure its operations?
InvestmentEthiopia2021-07-01Ethiopian Communications AuthorityTelecommunications-Licencing-Directive-No.-792-2021-English.pdf
InvestmentUgandaAfricell2021-09-08Capacity MediaAfricell exits Uganda due to "long-term commercial outlook"
InvestmentRegionalGoogle2021-09-14TechCentralGoogle sets aside $1-billion for investment in Africa
InvestmentRegional2021-09-21NairametricsCDC to invest over $50 million in Africa’s digital infrastructure, rural connectivity
InvestmentRegionalGoogle2021-10-06ITWeb AfricaGoogle backs digital interest in Africa with US$1bn investment
InvestmentRegional2021-10-07WiredFacebook Renews Its Ambitions to Connect the World
InvestmentRegional2021-10-15The Economic Timeschina: China reportedly investing $ 8.43 bn in Africa as part of Digital Silk Road initiative
InvestmentRwanda2021-12-03ExtensiaRwanda secured $ 100 million from the World Bank to expand access to broadband and digital services
InvestmentTanzania2021-12-31Ecofin AgencyWorld Bank grants Tanzania $150mln to improve broadband connectivity
InvestmentGhana2021-05-25Bloomberg News'Ghana to Sell Sustainable Bonds, Africa''s First Social Debt For Education'
IXPKenya2021-07-06Capacity MediaAsteroid to operate second Kenyan IXP via iColo Nairobi
NRENsRegional2021-07-01WACRENBenin, Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire go live on WACREN network on 1st July 2021 - Mali to follow soon
OtherNigeria2021-04-27Techpoint AfricaInside 2 decades of mobile telecommunications in Nigeria
OtherUganda2021-05-05TechJajaNITA Uganda set to be abolished
OtherKenyaTelkom2021-05-24Business Daily AfricaTakeover of Sh16bn Telkom-run fibre optic network stalls
OtherSouth Africa2021-06-07TechCentral'''Irrational and unlawful'': Public Protector roasted over Usaasa report'
OtherZimbabwe2021-06-15TechzimThe dominos are falling fast; NMBConnect is now zero-rated
OtherNigeria2021-06-16Developing TelecomsNigerian Communications Commission reviews licensing and supports satcoms
OtherSenegal2021-06-25Radio France InternationalSenegal to move all government data to Huawei-run data center
OtherRegional2021-06-25Broadcasting and Media'Investors Increase Investments In Africa''s Mobile Telecoms Space'
OtherTanzania2021-07-01World MobileWorld Mobile | Smart Village case study
OthereSwatiniMTN2021-07-02TechCentralMTN sued for cutting off the Internet in Eswatini
OtherSouth Africa2021-07-06BusinessLiveSA’s ICT sector urgently needs a backbone
OtherSouth SudanDigitel2021-07-14TelegeographyNew mobile operator Digitel launches in South Sudan
OtherSouth Africa2021-07-15TechCentral'Mexico''s Woan, which SA wanted to emulate, has gone bust'
OtherSenegal2021-08-11TelegeographyARTP launches QoS app for mobile networks
OtherSouth Africa2021-08-11MyBroadbandSouth Africa’s weak plan for broadband and data
OtherSouth Africa2021-10-04TechCentralISPs have a plan to slash mobile data prices - if Icasa will play ball
OtherRegional2021-10-27ITWeb AfricaFixed wireless connectivity captures Africa’s broadband market
OtherLiberia2021-11-05Front Page Africa OnlineLTA, Cable Consortium of Liberia Sign Digital Partnership Agreement - FrontPageAfrica
OtherRegional2021-11-08QuartzThe rise of informal money transfers in west Africa — Quartz Africa
OtherSouth Africa2021-11-15MemeburnGovernment wants to give all people in South Africa access to internet within two years
OtherRegional2021-11-16Intelligent CIOLiquid Intelligent Technologies launches OneVoice for Cloud PBX in six African markets - Intelligent CIO Africa
OtherKenya2021-12-01UNICEFUNICEF and Liquid Intelligent Technologies launch a partnership to help Giga bridge the digital divide in Africa
PrivacyRegional2021-10-21The ConversationSurveillance laws are failing to protect privacy rights: what we found in six African countries
PrivacyUganda2021-12-21Financial TimesThe secret Uganda deal that has brought NSO to the brink of collapse
Rights of WayNigeria2021-03-29This Day29 States Yet to Implement N145 RoW Fee
Rural ConnectivityRegionalOrange2021-02-11TelegeographyOrange inks expansion deal with NuRAN
Rural ConnectivityGhana2021-02-24HuaweiHuawei launched RuralStar Pro with one site integration, low power consumption and easy deployment
Rural ConnectivityCameroonOrange2021-04-30Agence EcofinCameroun : les 122 sites télécoms commandés à NuRAN Wireless Inc par Orange seront opérationnels, d’ici décembre
Rural ConnectivityCameroon2021-09-30ITWeb AfricaCanada’s NuRAN projects higher than expected return on Cameroon NAAS deal
ShutdownsRegional2021-07-12TechCabalTelecom operators are trapped in Africa’s internet shutdowns: Can they fight back?
ShutdownsSouth Sudan2021-08-30Agence EcofinInternet coupé au Soudan du Sud depuis ce matin, suite à l’appel à manifestation lancée par une coalition d’activistes
ShutdownsBurkina Faso2021-11-22ITWeb AfricaBurkina Faso mobile internet disrupted as anti-government protests rage
Social MediaUgandaGoogle2021-01-11Pearl TimesMuseveni minister reports Facebook, Twitter to International Telecommunication Union for blocking anti-Bobi Wine accounts
Social MediaSouth Africa2021-06-26MyBroadbandFacebook vs Twitter — Social media apps that use the most data
Social MediaRegionalMeta2021-07-08ConversocialWhat Countries are the Biggest WhatsApp Users in 2021?
Social MediaEthiopia2021-08-24ITWeb AfricaEthiopia plots own social network to replace global offerings
Social MediaUganda2021-09-01RestofWorldNew study suggests how harassment keeps women politicians offline in Uganda
Social MediaSouth AfricaMoya2021-09-25MyBroadbandSouth Africa’s WhatsApp competitor that doesn’t use data
Social MediaSouth AfricaMoya2021-10-20TechCentralMoya, the South African app hoping to dethrone WhatsApp
Social MediaRegionalMeta2021-11-04RestofWorldHow social media companies help African governments abuse “disinformation laws” to target critics
Social MediaEthiopiaMeta2021-11-13RestofWorldWhy Facebook keeps failing in Ethiopia
Wireless OpticalDRC, CongoGoogle2021-09-16ITWeb AfricaLiquid rolls out high-speed connectivity for DRC, Congo Brazzaville

This work would not have been possible without the support of the Mozilla Corporation and the Association for Progressive Communications

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Posted by Steve Song

@stevesong local telco policy activist. social entrepreneur. founder of @villagetelco #africa #telecoms #opensource #privacy #wireless #spectrum #data