Political squabbles are dogging Africa's plans for undersea communications cables, reports Lloyd Gedye in the Mail and Guardian Online.
The continent needs new undersea data cables to improve bandwidth for broadband communications.
But the planned East African Submarine System (EASSy) could be split into four competing projects due to political infighting.
The South African and Kenyan governments have argued over whether EASSy should be controlled by the private sector, or an open access system — approved by the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) —where investors and non-investors are given international bandwidth access at the same price.
The result is that both have announced projects outside of the EASSy initiative: Kenya's US$110 million East African Marine System and the South Africa-led NEPAD Broadband Infrastructure Network.
EASSy could still be the first system operational. But while the two governments jostle to gain the support of African governments, another private initiative, Seacom, could beat them to it.
Meanwhile, the existing West African SAT-3 cable is rapidly running out of capacity and accused of charging exorbitant costs for bandwidth, so any delays to EASSy could be disastrous for African businesses.