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West and Central Africa connects to the global R&E network to unleash its potential

The EU-funded AfricaConnect2 project has just announced that, following the tender call to connect West and Central (W&C) Africa back in June 2016, GÉANT has awarded a 15-year contract to MainOne for connectivity services. By signing the contract through AfricaConnect2, WACREN, the regional Research and Education Network in West and Central Africa, will join the global Research and Education (R&E) networking community. In addition to that, a complementary contract was signed with XON Systems for the provision of equipment.

This comes at the time of an ever-widening digital divide. The slow and sporadic adoption of ICT technologies in W&C Africa has led to one of the lowest internet penetration rates in the world. In this light, the recent contract announcement will undoubtedly facilitate the digital economy and will allow WACREN to truly unleash its potential and work with its members to meet the needs of its users.

Welcoming the progress of the AfricaConnect2 project and underlining the importance of connecting the region to the global R&E network, Boubakar Barry, CEO of WACREN said: “The signing of the contracts with MainOne and XON is an important milestone in the journey WACREN has embarked on towards the provision of first-class network infrastructure for the education and research community in West and Central Africa. When the first connections will be up in the first quarter of 2018, the big hole that currently exists in the global research and education networking map will finally be closed”.

Leveraging EU funding, AfricaConnect2 was able to secure a 15-year IRU (Indefeasible Right of Use) and pay an upfront circuit provisioning cost. This supports the EU objective of creating a sustainable, high-capacity data communications network that serves higher education and research institutions across the region.

Initially, the WACREN network will provide a 10Gbps link from Lagos, Nigeria to London, UK where it interconnects with the pan-European GÉANT network, thus providing access to R&E collaborations with over 50 million researchers, academics and students across Europe. As part of the contract, an additional link will go out from Lagos terminating in Accra, Ghana. The implementation of this contract will not only connect the first two countries in West and Central Africa but will also form the building block for the WACREN backbone in support of R&E communities across the entire Central and Western part of the African continent.

MainOne, the company which was awarded the contract for the provision of network connectivity services in the WACREN region after being successful in the highly competitive connectivity tender, is a leading provider of innovative telecom services and network solutions in West Africa.

Funke Opeke, Chief Executive Officer of MainOne, commended the commitment of WACREN to connect regional researchers to the global research and education communities across the world: “MainOne was born out of a passion to close the digital divide in West Africa and this agreement with WACREN leverages our capacity and provides us the opportunity to get all Research and Educational institutions in West Africa connected among themselves and to the rest of the world. We are delighted to have won this bid and believe we will add value to institutions in our region with our cost-effective and innovative connectivity solutions”.

On the other hand, the contract with XON Systems, an IP equipment provider, completes the first procurement cycle by introducing a 4-year framework agreement under which WACREN is able to purchase the IP Routing equipment required for setting up and running its regional network.

“XON have worked closely with GÉANT in the past on the AfricaConnect projects and we are honoured and privileged to have been selected as the IP-routing equipment supplier of choice to help build the AfricaConnect2 project for the WACREN network”, said Sub-Saharan Sales Manager Dewalt Uys. “By leveraging our vast experience of providing equipment and services to Tier-1 service providers across the continent, we can bring our vendor partnerships, engineering competency and logistics expertise as we help WACREN embark on this formidable and exciting journey.”

Celebrating this achievement, Cathrin Stöver, GÉANT’s Chief Collaboration Officer and the project manager of AfricaConnect2, said: “The global R&E community has just become stronger and more enriched. I congratulate WACREN on this milestone and invite its users to make the most of the unlimited opportunities that this sort of connectivity brings.”

January 19, 2018