Google wants to connect Africa to Australia

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May 24, 2024
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5 min read
Google

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Barev,

Victoria from Techpoint here,

Here's what I've got for you today:

  • Google’s fibre optic route connecting Africa and Australia
  • BDC operators decry new CBN guidelines
  • Techstars CEO steps down

Google’s fibre optic route connecting Africa and Australia

Google

Google has announced Umoja, a fibre optic cable project that will directly connect Africa to Australia. 

Starting in Kenya, Umoja will travel through several African countries, like the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, before ending in South Africa. From there, it will pass through the Google Cloud region and head to Australia via the Indian Ocean.

The terrestrial path of Umoja was built in partnership with Liquid Technologies, ensuring that other countries can benefit from this new network. 

Google has also added Umoja to its Africa Connect initiative, which includes Equiano, a private subsea cable launched in 2019 to connect Africa and Europe. The idea is to create a more resilient network for a region that has often experienced major Internet outages.

Kenya's President, William Ruto, highlighted how this investment by Google will greatly enhance global and regional digital infrastructure. Ruto emphasised that this project is vital for maintaining reliable connectivity, especially after recent disruptions caused by undersea cable damages.

In March 2024, several African countries faced Internet outages due to damage to undersea cables. 

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In May, the failure of Eassy and Seacom's submarine cables affected Internet services in East African countries like Kenya and Tanzania. Google's initiative aims to prevent such disruptions by providing a more robust and redundant network route.

What’s more, Google is planning to partner with Kenya’s Ministry of Information Communications and The Digital Economy to focus on areas like cybersecurity, digital upskilling, and AI. 

Meanwhile, Microsoft is also making significant digital investments in Kenya. Partnering with G42 and an AI firm in the UAE, Microsoft has allocated $1 billion for the initial phase of its initiative. 


BDC operators decry new CBN guidelines

CBN building
The Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN. [PHOTO CREDIT: Ehud Kaduna]

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has announced that all existing Bureau de Change (BDC) operators need to reapply for new licences under the latest guidelines. 

These new rules, which kick in on June 3, 2024, require BDCs to meet new minimum capital requirements within six months. 

BDC operators aren’t happy with the new guidelines. Aminu Gwadebe, President of the Association of Bureau de Change Operators of Nigeria (ABCON), expressed his frustration, saying the new capital requirements are excessive and don't align with global standards. 

He pointed out that the capitalisation requirements in the UK and Kenya are much lower, arguing that BDCs simply buy and sell currencies, they’re not banks.

Gwadebe also mentioned that the timeline given by the CBN to comply with these new rules is too short. This sentiment is echoed by many operators who feel that the changes are being implemented too quickly.

The CBN, however, says the new guidelines are meant to streamline BDC operations and improve financial access in Nigeria. 

They released a draft of these guidelines back in February 2024 for feedback, and now they’re putting them into action. 

The new setup includes two tiers of BDCs: Tier-1 operators, who can operate nationwide with a minimum capital base of ₦2 billion, and Tier-2 operators, who are limited to one state or the FCT with a minimum capital base of ₦500 million.

All BDC transactions over $500 must now be done digitally, and the CBN expects all operators to follow strict corporate governance and anti-money laundering regulations.


Techstars CEO steps down

Techstars CEO Maëlle Gavet

Maëlle Gavet is stepping down as CEO of Techstars at the end of May 2024 due to health reasons. She's been at the helm for nearly four years, but now it's time for her to focus on her well-being. Taking her place is none other than David Cohen, who's actually a co-founder and board chairman of Techstars.

In a heartfelt message, Gavet expressed her gratitude and said she'll be cheering everyone on from the sidelines. It's definitely a bittersweet moment for the company.

But Gavet's departure isn't the only shake-up Techstars is facing. They fell short of revenue goals in 2023, which led to some tough decisions like cutting staff by 7% and closing down accelerator programmes in places like Seattle, Boulder, and Sweden.

Cohen, who's no stranger to Techstars, thanked Gavet for her hard work and dedication. He's stepping back into the CEO role after 13 years at the helm. Talk about coming full circle!

Under Gavet's leadership, Techstars made some serious moves. They invested in over 2000 startups, with nearly 500 of them raising a whopping $2.4 billion in funding. Plus, the diversity of founders increased, with more women and people of colour getting in on the action.

As for Cohen, he's pumped to be back in the driver's seat and he's ready to lead the company into its next chapter. 


In case you missed it

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Have a fun weekend!

Victoria Fakiya for Techpoint Africa.

She's autistic and interested in mental health and how technology can help Africans with mental disorders. Find her on Twitter @latoria_ria.
She's autistic and interested in mental health and how technology can help Africans with mental disorders. Find her on Twitter @latoria_ria.
She's autistic and interested in mental health and how technology can help Africans with mental disorders. Find her on Twitter @latoria_ria.

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