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Africa's international IT expressway

Article - April 3, 2014
Widespread access to high-speed mobile and fixed internet connections is fast-tracking advances in Angola’s telecom sector
Angola’s telecoms sector has been progressing by leaps and bounds over the past decade and a half. It is hard to believe that in a country where just 13 years ago there were a scant 50,000 mobile subscribers, high-speed 4G services became available before fourth-generation technology hit the market in most of Europe. 
The government has had a hand in this technological fast-tracking by liberalising the industry soon after the sector itself emerged. “The telecom sector was born in 1998. By this time, the government had formed the foundations for the sector to develop, for example with strategic policies to open our market to other companies, as we only had Angola Telecom,” explains Aristides F. Safeca, Secretary of State for Telecommunications. “Following the entry of the first private mobile operator [Unitel] in 2001, Angolans started to benefit from the strategy.” 
In 2010 state-owned Angola Telecom privatised its mobile arm, Movicel, and things really started taking off. Competition has not come without collaboration, and Movicel, Unitel and Angola Telecom, along with two other shareholders, formed Angola Cables in 2009 to participate in a groundbreaking multinational project to build a submarine communications cable joining Western Africa with Europe. Known as WACS (West Africa Cable System), the 14,530km cable runs from South Africa all the way to London with several landing points and was finished in 2011.
Now under way is another enormous project: the South Atlantic Cable System, SACS. Intended to connect Angola and Brazil, SACS will be the first undersea cable connecting their respective continents and will convert Angola into Africa’s main telecoms gateway towards the Americas. Antonio Nunes, CEO of Angola Cables, remarks that the project, which is due for completion in 2016, will also help in the development of the cable market in Africa. “It will be a completely