Cable networks and Regional Challenges
Cable networks and Regional Challenges
Kemet Boutros Ghali Foundation for Peace and Knowledge (KBG) organized a webinar on the “Political and Economic Considerations of Marine Cables.” Dr. Magued Othman, former minister of communication, and engineer Ahmed Abdelatif, a communication expert, were the main speakers, and Dr. Ahmed Darwish, former minister of Administration Development, was the mediator.
KBG Chairman, Mr. Mamdouh Abbas, raised many 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 lines connecting Europe with Africa and contributing to the industry.
Dr. Darwish introduced the first speaker, Dr. Othman, saying that although he had taken over the ministry of communication at a very critical time in 2011, he was able to work on the country’s communication files efficiently. 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 stated that its history goes back to the first world war when great powers depended largely on marine cables to control and run their colonies throughout the world. Those cables were supported by high radiofrequency.
Dr. Othman spoke of two incidents of great significance in the history of marine cables in 1917 and 1970 to explain the use of wires for espionage and point 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 lines connecting Thailand with Hong Kong were stolen and sold as wires of copper. Such challenges show the difficulty of securing marine cables stretched to hundreds of miles undersea.
“However, marine cables are still necessary as they carry almost ten trillion dollars of trade and communication interchange worldwide,” said Dr. Othman.
In the same context, engineer Ahmed Abdellatif, an internationally recognized expert, added that marine cables carry almost 97 percent of global communication. He pointed out that Egypt enjoys an advantageous geographical location as far as maritime networks are concerned. As he hinted, this is a fact that should not be taken for granted but instead enriched with hard work to enhance its potential.
According to Abdellatif, there are several marine network paths; foremost among them is the one covering the west coast of the United States.
“It is the backbone that connects Asia, Europe, and the US. There is also a unique path to the Gulf region launched from Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). In the meantime, Djibouti is the focal point to Africa’s communication networks, whereas Egypt is an important pathway connecting the Middle East with Europe. ” he explained.
Most of the marine networks are joint ventures, as Abdellatif said. The high costs of establishing such networks have called for collective funding. Yet, Abdellatif pointed to the ongoing venturing of the private sector into this field which governments have dominated for years. Despite the great potential of the private sector and its financial capabilities, the industry 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 multinationals in 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 requirements for a digital economy.
The African Union Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy, Dr. Amany Abou Zeid, stressed that marine cables had 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 will experience the equivalent of having the new oil wealth and opportunities in that century. According to Dr. Abou Zeid, though still a novice to that technology, the continent can fill the gap and thrive in that sector.
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. Abou Zeid concluded that the African Continent has sixteen 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.