• By Natasha Booty and Moses Kollie Garzeawu
  • BBC News in London and Monrovia

Image source, Getty Images

Major internet disruptions have been reported in several countries in Africa.

Widespread outages were reported on Thursday in countries including South Africa, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Benin, Ghana and Burkina Faso.

Since then, services have largely been restored in Liberia and South Africa.

The cause of the cable outages was not immediately clear, frustrating millions of customers across the continent.

“There appears to be a pattern in the timing of the disruptions, which are affecting Africa from north to south,” said Cloudflare Radar, which provides information on internet connections.

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), which regulates the telecoms sector, said the outage was caused by damage to international submarine cables running along the West African coast.

“The cuts took place somewhere in Ivory Coast and Senegal, with an associated disruption in Portugal,” said NCC spokesperson Reuben Muoka.

Sometimes submarine cables can be cut, even by debris, a retired expert told the BBC.

He added: “You can also have submarine landslides – parts of the seabed can become unstable, causing huge amounts of mud to be thrown down a gorge or trench.”

“Where cables come ashore and are buried underground, they may be susceptible to accidental or intentional damage.”

Whatever the cause, it has created major problems for people who depend on the internet for their livelihood.

“It was impossible to communicate with my customers – I also had to arrange a delivery via an online app,” fashion designer Cheick Senou told the BBC from Abidjan in Ivory Coast on Friday.

“I couldn’t do anything without the internet.”

Internet connectivity in Ivory Coast fell to just 4% on Thursday morning, according to Netblocks, which tracks cybersecurity and internet connectivity.

Liberia dropped to 17% at one point, while Benin was at 14% and Ghana at 25%, according to Netblocks.

In South Africa, Vodacom said on Thursday that customers were experiencing “intermittent connectivity issues due to multiple submarine cable outages”.

An outage was also reported in the MainOne cable system that serves Nigeria’s commercial hub, Lagos.

The Liberian government confirmed on Thursday that internet outages had been reported as of that morning.

Citizens did not have access to basic internet and social media in the vast majority of the country. It was reported that international bank transfers were also affected, while international voice calls were limited.

“It seems like 50% of my life is over today,” Benjamin Garkpah told the BBC from the Liberian capital Monrovia on Thursday.

Fatumata Barry said her business had stalled because she could not receive mobile money payments.

The Liberia Telecommunications Authority said this was caused by an incident involving the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) submarine communications cable in Ivory Coast.

In Ghana, the National Communications Authority (NCA) reported that multiple submarine cable failures were responsible for the outage.

Additional reporting by George Wright and Nicolas Négoce

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