South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia and Ivory Coast experienced major internet outages

  • Written by Natasha Botti and Moses Colley Garziao
  • BBC News in London and Monrovia

Image source, Getty Images

Major internet outages have been reported in several countries across 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 been largely restored in Liberia and South Africa.

It was not immediately clear what caused the cable failure, frustrating millions of customers across the continent.

“There appears to be a pattern in the timing of the disturbances, affecting from northern to southern Africa,” said Cloudflare Radar, which provides information on internet connections.

A retired expert told the BBC that sometimes submarine cables can be cut, even by debris.

“You can also have subsea landslides, where parts of the seafloor can become unstable, sending massive amounts of mud down the valley or gully,” he added.

“When cables reach shore and are buried underground, they may be vulnerable to accidental or intentional damage.”

Whatever the reason, this has led to great difficulties for people who depend on the Internet to earn a living.

“It was impossible to communicate with my customers – I also needed to organize a delivery through an online app,” fashion designer Chick Seno told the BBC on Friday from Abidjan, Ivory Coast.

“I couldn't do anything without the Internet.”

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

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

A malfunction was also reported in the MainOne cable system serving Nigeria's commercial hub, Lagos.

The Liberian government confirmed on Thursday that an internet outage had been reported since that morning.

Citizens were unable to access basic internet as well as social media in the vast majority of the country. International bank transfers were also reported to be affected while international voice calls were limited.

“It feels like 50% of my life is gone today,” Benjamin Jarkbah told the BBC from the Liberian capital, Monrovia, on Thursday.

Fatoumata Bari said her business came to a halt because she was unable to receive payments through mobile money transfer.

The Liberia Communications Authority said the cause of the incident was an accident involving the African Coast to Europe (ACE) submarine communications cable in Ivory Coast.

In Ghana, the National Communications Authority (NCA) reported that multiple submarine cable breaks were the cause of the outage.

Additional reporting by George Wright and Nicholas Neguse

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