MainOne: An enabler of ICT innovation in West Africa


Despite the benefits of technology as an economic enabler, Africa continues to lag behind other developed continents in its adoption of technology, impacting the region’s ability to boost competitiveness and improve the well-being of its citizens. According to the Internet World Stats, broadband internet penetration on the continent is at 28.3%, lower than the world average of 49.6% and pales in comparison to the Americas with 69.8%, Asia at 45.2% and Europe at 76.7%. Despite the growth opportunities on the second most populous continent, with a rising middle-class that is gaining purchasing power, and the world’s largest pool of untapped brainpower and talent, Africa is still sorely lacking in the infrastructure to effectively enable ICT development. Up until 2010, the main internet connection for West Africa was via the SAT3 cable system in the Atlantic which was extremely expensive, highly regulated, and offered no diversity.

Companies like MainOne recognised this challenge and worked to bridge the digital divide by investing in a fiber optic cable system, connecting Portugal to Nigeria and Ghana. Launched for operations in July 2010, MainOne’s 7000km subsea cable on inception carried more capacity and brought competition to a market where wholesale Internet access was nearly 500 times the price in the US. MainOne’s entry immediately propelled a crash in the high cost of wholesale internet services by as much as 50 percent and paved the way for the internet revolution across the region. Many ISPs that were hitherto out of business got a new lease of life. Since the launch of MainOne’s services in the country, there has been a re-birth of ISPs across West Africa, many of which are customers of MainOne. As at the last count, ISPs in West Africa including Smile Communications, Spectranet, Cobranet, IPNX, Surfline, Blu Telecoms, Busy Internet,, amongst others, are all connected to the MainOne submarine cable facility. This investment has enabled internet penetration in countries like Nigeria and Ghana to grow from the region of 20% to over 50% of the population within the past 7 years.

In response to the rapidly transforming business landscape in West Africa, MainOne has also evolved from a submarine cable company to a full-service business-to-business communications services provider, offering an expanded range of data center and connectivity services across nine countries in West Africa. MainOne has built the region’s premier Data Center named MDXi; a 600 Rack, Tier III certified facility, and with further certifications with PCI DSS, ISO 9001, and ISO 27001. MDXi has ambitiously resolved to address the growing demand for Colocation, Cloud and Disaster Recovery Services across West Africa.

MainOne is also supporting the start-up ecosystem in Nigeria and Ghana to create sustainable businesses and enterprises. The company built a 30km fiber cable system in Yaba, Lagos in partnership with the Lagos State Government, CCHub and Technovision which stimulated the cluster of tech start-ups, developers, programmers, and entrepreneurs in what is now dubbed “Lagos Silicon Valley”. MainOne has also backed other initiatives to develop technology penetration via partnerships with Andela,, Demo Africa, Hackerspace, MEST, among many others. These efforts in Yaba have created a ripple effect, generating 2000+ direct jobs and 50+ businesses across ISP, E-Commerce and ICT sectors attracting over $200m in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). The Yaba Silicon Valley has attracted the attention of global internet companies with visits to Nigeria by top executives including Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg and Google CEO, Sundar Pichal, a further validation of the vibrancy of Nigeria’s tech industry.

MainOne remains at the forefront of driving broadband development in West Africa and is focused on new initiatives such as a submarine cable landing in Cote D’Ivoire and expansion of its terrestrial fiber network in Lagos in order to continue to provide high quality internet services to open up West Africa for digital transformation.