In a major partnership, Africa50 and Bayobab (formerly MTN GlobalConnect) have teamed up to launch Project East2West, an ambitious initiative that aims to connect the eastern and western shores of Africa through a terrestrial fiber optic cable network. With an investment of up to US$320 million over the next three years (2023-2025), the project will improve broadband access for landlocked African countries, enhance data traffic capabilities, and foster regional economic development.

Bayobab is set to play a pivotal role in the venture as it aligns with the company's ambitious growth plans. By 2025, Bayobab aims to deploy 135,000 km of proprietary fiber, contributing to MTN's broader goal of establishing an Africa-focused open-access digital infrastructure platform.

“This partnership with Africa50 comes at an opportune time, just as we rebrand MTN GlobalConnect to Bayobab to position the business as an Africa-focused open-access digital infrastructure platform,” said MTN Group President and CEO Ralph Mupita.

“The alliance is more than cables and connections; it is about building bridges of connectivity that span nations and bring people closer together. For landlocked African countries, Project East2West will improve latency by almost two-thirds and increase capacity to support high-quality broadband access. In this way, it will level the playing field and ensure that everyone has a fair chance to succeed in the digital world,” he added.

The partnership will offer substantial improvements in data traffic for internet service providers, mobile network operators and hyperscalers operating in these countries. It will also bridge the bottlenecks in global internet traffic landing in and going out of Africa. It is expected to cut latency by up to 65% on the east-to-west route.

Bayobab CEO Frédéric Schepens noted, “Guided by the belief that everyone deserves the benefits of a modern connected life, we see the provision of digital infrastructure as critical in driving digital transformation, weaving African countries together and connecting them to the rest of the world.”

 “Africa’s connectivity relies on strategic and global partnerships coming together to build the much-needed large-scale backbone infrastructure to meet the explosive demand for digital services.

We are looking forward to Project East2West meeting the connectivity demands to power digital services, bridging the digital divide across Africa, and paving the way for the sustainable digital societies of tomorrow,” he added.

As a co-developer, Africa50 is fostering the harmonization of regional data and security regulations, boosting consumption of local content throughout the region and promoting inter-regional exchanges and regional economic development.

“Project East2West is a remarkable and transformative project that will step-change Africa’s internet capacity expansion drive by supporting the growth and development of 4G and 5G, and partnering with a large pan-African company like Bayobab and MTN is important to roll out such an impactful cross-border project,” said Africa50 CEO Alain Ebobissé.

The development of Project East2West is expected to be completed in 2025.

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