Liquid Telecom invests $400m in Egypt partnership as it plans Senegal expansion 

10 December 2018 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

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African fibre network Liquid Telecom is investing $400 million in a partnership with Telecom Egypt to build data centres and fibre infrastructure in Egypt.

The move comes just after the completion of Liquid’s Cape-to-Cairo fibre network, announced in July 2018. Now Liquid is planning to connect Cairo to west Africa, said Strive Masiyiwa, executive chairman of parent company Econet.

This involved building a link from Cairo to Dakar, the capital of Senegal, through Sudan, Chad and Nigeria, with connections to the rest of West Africa. “We have already crossed Africa from east to west through Sudan and Chad,” said Masiyiwa. “We are at the Nigerian border and we expect to reach Abuja by the end of January in time for the AU [African Union] summit.”

Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, will be the next chair of the AU, taking over from the current chair, Paul Kagame, president of Rwanda, at the summit. “We want to reach Dakar before President El-Sisi finishes his term,” said Masiyiwa.

The investment in Egypt “is part of a major partnership with Telecom Egypt which includes network infrastructure and data centres”, said Liquid Telecom in a statement.

The deal was signed by Masiyiwa and Telecom Egypt CEO Ahmed El Beheiry, and was witnessed by two Egyptian government ministers, Sahar Nasr, minister of investment and international cooperation, and Amr Talaat, minister of communications and information technology.

Telecom Egypt will use the network to connect Egyptian businesses to the rest of Africa, and will partner with Liquid Telecom to build data centres across Egypt.

There will be an initial investment of $50m in data centres and cloud services, followed by an additional $350m in broadband and financial inclusion initiatives, as well as high capacity data centres.

“These will be similar to some of the best-in-class data centres in South Africa,” said Liquid, which has a 70,000km fibre network linked to more than 600 towns and cities in 13 countries across Africa.

Both Kagame and El-Sisi are supporters of the One Africa broadband network of which Liquid Telecom is part. El-Sisi welcomed the Egyptian investment as a major milestone in connecting the African continent with Egypt and said he would continue to push the initiative during his tenure next year as chair of the 54-nation AU.

Masiyiwa also acknowledged the support of Kagame in the Cape-to-Cairo project. He said: “It would have been impossible to reach this far so quickly without his support. He adopted this initiative as a key project during his tenure and has been highly supportive throughout its development. We know President El-Sisi will help us take it to the next level because he understands the vision of Africa.”

Masiyiwa said the One Africa model could encourage other entrepreneurs to build projects in complementary sectors, such as rail and power. “We need to push the linkage of our continental power grids, and also rail and air transportation. Now is the time for bold initiatives to build intra-African trade and investment.”

See below for details of our new Capacity North Africa event, in Cairo on 16-17 April 2019:

Capacity North Africa 2019