Though internet coverage, and speeds have been on an upward trend and internet penetration continues to grow, 70% of people living in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2020 hardly used the internet, if at all.
Google announced in 2019 it would finance a subsea internet cable, Equiano, running from Portugal to South Africa along the Atlantic Coast of Africa. The cable has a design capacity of 144 Tbps, the largest of any installed submarine cables on the African continent.
Equiano has four confirmed branches that will land in Lomé, the capital of Togo, in Lagos, Nigeria, at Swakopmund, Namibia, and at the South Atlantic island of St Helena.
In order to highlight the potential socio-economic impact of this investment and promote the adoption of the cable by the intended partners/clients, Google engaged Genesis through Africa Practice to undertake an impact assessment of the cable in the countries where it would land.
The Genesis team proceeded to develop an impact pathway that summarised how the installation of the Equiano cable would result in technological, social and economic advances. Measurement of impact was rooted in the quantification of the relationship between variables of the impact pathway. Specifically, the team sought to answer the following questions:
- How will the installation of the Equiano cable change a country's used international bandwidth/bandwidth capacity?
- How will a change in a country’s bandwidth capacity change average internet speeds in the country?
- How will a change in a country’s bandwidth capacity lead to a change in the cost of internet in the country?
- How will an increase in internet speeds lead to a change in the intensive use of the internet?
- How will a decrease in the retail price of the internet lead to a change in the intensive and extensive (internet penetration) use of the internet?
- How will an increase in internet use and penetration lead to a change in economic output?
- How will an increase in internet use and penetration lead to a change in employment rates?
- How will an increase in internet use and penetration lead to a change in greenhouse gas emissions?
These questions were answered through a rigorous review of various empirical studies conducted in the last 10 years. These quantified values were then applied to the impact analysis, taking into account the internet landscape of the focus countries in the assessment. This enabled the ultimate quantification of Equiano’s impact on real economic output/growth, employment and greenhouse gas emissions.
A number of the impact assessments have since been published, raising awareness about the cable and its potential impact among government agencies, regulators and other internet service providers.