It might not be a bad time to invest in African tech companies.
Facebook and Google are looking to significantly expand internet connectivity on the continent, the companies announced in recent weeks.
Google expects Alcatel Submarine Networks to have a private sub-sea cable built in 2021 to connect Portugal to South Africa, and Facebook reportedly has a much bigger picture in mind.
The multi-billion-dollar social media company wants to develop an underwater data cable that would encircle Africa, drive down its bandwidth costs and give more people access to the internet, according to The Wall Street Journal.
In a project named Simba as a nod to “The Lion King,” Facebook officials are in early talks to attract new users by expanding access to the internet.
Africa is the only continent with more than half of its population — 76 percent on average — without internet, Quartz Africa reported.
Both Facebook and Google have tried to improve access to the internet in several developing nations, and both have relied on partnerships with local telecommunications companies to do so.
Google partnered with Nigerian fiber optic telecoms service provider 21st Century to offer a free public WiFi service in Nigeria in July of 2018, according to Google.
Facebook partnered with Airtel, Nigeria’s third largest telecommunications operator, to launch a Free Basics service in Nigeria in May of 2016.
The program allows users access to select websites at no cost, but it has been criticized as too restrictive.
“Facebook is not introducing people to open internet where you can learn, create and build things,” Ellery Biddle, advocacy director of Global Voices told The Guardian in July of 2017. “It’s building this little web that turns the user into a mostly passive consumer of mostly Western corporate content. That’s digital colonialism.”
Although it’s unclear if the recent Facebook project will work with African telecoms companies, the service it provides is expected to reach far wider.
It would connect several countries on the continent’s eastern, western and Mediterranean coasts, The Wall Street Journal reported.