Enlarge / View of Le Plateau and the Ebrie Lagoon from the top of the Cathedrale St-Paul in Ivory Coast (Ivory Coast), one of the affected countries.

Thirteen countries in Africa experienced internet outages on Thursday due to damage to undersea fiber optic cables. Some countries, including Ghana and Nigeria, are still experiencing nationwide outages.

Multiple network providers reported internet outages yesterday, and Cloudflare’s Radar tool, which monitors internet usage patterns, detailed how the outage apparently moved from the northern part of West Africa to South Africa. All thirteen countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, South Africa, Gambia and Togo) reportedly experienced nationwide outages, in most cases affecting multiple networks .

The internet disruptions in some countries were short-lived, such as Gambia and Guinea, as they lasted 30 minutes, according to Cloudflare. Other outages, such as in South Africa (five hours), lasted longer and some are continuing. At the time of writing, Cloudflare reports that six countries, including Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon and Ivory Coast, are still experiencing outages.

The outages began around 05:00 UTC on Thursday in Guinea, Liberia and Gambia, Cloudflare said in a blog post that also shared graphs of the affected countries’ internet usage. South of those countries, Ivory Coast saw disruptions begin at 07:30 UTC that day, according to Cloudflare data. Domestically, problems reached Niger in Central Africa at 4:31 PM UTC.

Numerous sources, including local network providers such as Vodacom, MTN and the Nigerian Communications Commission, reported damage to multiple submarine cables as the cause. A Thursday press release from Reuben Muoka, director of public affairs at NCC, said: “The cuts took place somewhere in Ivory Coast and Senegal, with associated disruption in Portugal.”

In an Azure health report, Microsoft said it “determined” that “multiple cables” on the West African coast, including the African coast to Europe, MainOne, SAT3 and the West African cable system, were disrupted. Here you can see a map of the cables that are damaged. The cause of the cable damage is unknown.

“In addition to these cable impacts, the continued cable cuts in the Red Sea – EIG, Seacom, AAE-1 – are also impacting overall capacity on the east coast of Africa. These incidents together had reduced the overall network capacity for most African countries. regions,” Microsoft said.

Earlier this month, three undersea fiber optic cables were severed in the Red Sea, disrupting an estimated 25 percent of internet traffic in the Middle East, Asia and Europe and prompting plans to reroute traffic. The cause of these damaged cables has not been confirmed.

Submarine cable-related internet outages are not new, as such cables are responsible for an estimated 99 percent of intercontinental traffic, according to TeleGeography calculations based on Euroconsult data (TeleGeography notes that minimal data means the calculations are not “accurate”) and may take a while. For example, much of Tonga had to rely on satellite dishes for internet access for 12 days in 2019 due to an undersea fiber optic cable.

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