cable networks and regional challenges

06 July 2021

 

 

Cable Networks and Regional Challenges 

 

 “Kemet Boutros Ghali Foundation for Peace and Knowledge” (KBBG), organized a webinar on the “Political and Economic Considerations of Marine Cables”. Dr. Magued Othman, former minister of communication, engineer Ahmed Abdellatef, communication expert were the main speakers and Dr. Ahmed Darwish, former minister of Administration Development was the mediator.

 KBBG Chairman, Mr. Mamdouh Abbas, raised a good number of questions on the current competition among countries for big data and marine cables. He also discussed the importance of Egypt’s geography as far as hosting cables connecting Europe with Africa and means of contributing to the industry.

Dr. Darwish introduced the first speaker, Dr. Othman, saying that although he took over the ministry of communication at a very critical time in 2011, he was able to work on the country’s communication files in an efficient way. Dr. Othman is currently the executive chairman of ‘Basira’, a well- known institution conducting and analyzing surveys. 

The historical development of marine cables was laid out by Dr. Othman who said that its history goes back to the first world war when great powers at the time depended largely on marine cables to control and run their colonies throughout the world. Those cables were supported by high radio frequency. 

Dr. Othman spoke of two major incidents of great significance in the history of marine cables that occurred in 1917 and 1970 to explain the use of cables for espionage and pointing to the endless possibilities in that regard with today’s advanced technology. He also gave examples of the cables contribution to scientific discoveries such as fiber optics. 

Organized crimes have also left their marks on marine cables as Dr. Othman explained, adding that cables connecting Thailand with Hong Kong were stolen to be sold as wires of copper. Such challenges show the difficulty of securing marine cables which are stretched to hundreds of miles undersea. 

However, marine cables are still a necessity as they carry almost ten trillion dollars of trade and communication interchange worldwide, Dr. Othman said. 

In the same context, engineer Ahmed Abdellatif, the internationally recognized expert, said that marine cables carry almost 97 percent of the global communication. He pointed to the fact that Egypt enjoys an advantageous geographical location as far as marine networks are concerned. This is a fact that should not be taken for granted, as he hinted, but rather enriched with hard work to enhance its potentials.

According to Abdellatif, there are several marine network paths, major among them is the one covering the western coast of the United States… “It is the backbone that connects Asia, Europe and the US,” he said, adding that there is also a special path to the Gulf region launched from Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), meantime Djibouti is the focal point to Africa’s communication networks, at a time when Egypt is an important pathway connecting the Middle East with Europe. 

 

Most of the marine networks are joint ventures as Abdellatif said. The high costs of establishing such networks has called for collective funding. Yet, Abdellatif pointed to the ongoing venturing of the private sector into this field which has been dominated by governments for years. Despite the great potentials of the private sector and its financial capabilities, the sector can hardly be controlled by the known regulations of good governance, Abdellatif explained. 

Abdellatif also referred to the advance of “digital diplomacy” used to support the country’s political interests. He concluded by urging the government to encourage important multinationals in the field of communication to open offices and facilities in Egypt to help make Egypt an attractive communication hub by establishing a free zone area with less bureaucratic requirement for digital economy.

The African Union Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy, Dr. Amany Abou Zeid, in her comment stressed the fact that marine cables have become the backbone of economic development as connectivity proved to be the base for world economies especially after the lockdown of COVID 19. Digitalization is currently the infrastructure of the 21st century and Africa is seen as equivalent of having the new oil wealth and opportunities of that century. The continent, according to her, though still new to that technology yet can from where the others ended. 

A marine cable that passes through a country like South Africa practically means an increase of its GDP by 6% while Djibouti is expecting more than 24 million dollars to be added to its revenues by 2025 for hosting these cables. Abu Zeid said that the African Continent has 16 land locked states that need creative means to connect their economy to the world. Currently, establishing free zones throughout the continent would not mean trade and industry but digital networks, Abu Zeid said.