London — Spanish-speaking Equatorial Guinea is one of the most under-reported telecoms markets in Sub-Saharan Africa. To right the balance a little this week we’re running a translation of an interview in CIO Magazine with Dr Oscar Ondo Ngomo Nchama, D-G of the public sector telco GITGE.
Q: How do you see yourself?
A: I am an entrepreneur in the African technological space, a passionate promoter of the ICT industry in sub-Saharan Africa. I am currently serving as the Managing Director of GITGE, working in the public and private sectors to promote entrepreneurship, education and economic diversification through the ICT sector to improve internet access in rural, low-income urban areas.
I am a promoter of three social initiatives: GITGE EDUCA, GITGE CONECTATE and TEG Campus, a 5-day technology event, focused on the diversification of the economy and on helping young people into the ICT sector, helping to build a bridge between young talent and the business sector. I am currently planning to launch a foundation and incubation center, where I hope to support and invest in the best ideas and talents.
Q: How is the internet sector doing in Equatorial Guinea?
A: Equatorial Guinea is a country that connected internationally to high-speed fiber in 2012. Until then, any international connection was conditioned by the costs and quality of satellite communications. With the entry into service of the ACE cable, the growth of Internet access started just over 500 Mbps with a connection to Europe, and today we have more than 30 Gbps fully diversified between Lisbon, London and Virginia in the United States. The growth in the quality of the Internet has translated into growth in 3G and 4G data users, and on the other hand, lower prices which have made the Internet more accessible to our population. Growth exists, but we are still working to make it more inclusive so that all people can benefit from broadband.
Q: What challenges has GITGE taken up to date?
A: GITGE is responsible for managing investments in public telecommunications infrastructure. The geographical peculiarity of our country, with an island and continental region and a strongly dispersed population, requires significant investments in submarine cables and in terrestrial optical fibers, which do not necessarily have an economic return in all cases. To this end, we are compelled to develop a strategy that enables equal broadband access for all operators on an equal footing and across the country. Private models generally offer very good prices in profitable areas and exclude citizens from unprofitable areas.
At GITGE, we have decided that our customers, operators, and therefore citizens, are at the center of our strategy, and therefore we are developing infrastructures in all regions of the country, profitable and non-profitable, and which have a more social. This presents a challenge, because we have to combine profitable and less profitable projects, while guaranteeing the same services and prices all over the country. For projects with high investments in infrastructure, this is already a challenge.
Q: What are the main lessons learned from this dual health and economic crisis and how will they be reflected in the products marketed by GITGE?
A: Telecommunications played a key role during this crisis, with the sole objective of guaranteeing the continuity of business operations, but also at the personal level, to ensure communication with our families in difficult times. During this crisis, we were able to ensure that our country’s emergency committee was constantly connected with the outside world and with each other, and most importantly with hospitals and healthcare staff who needed to be connected and know what to do in each case. During the international health crisis, we suffered connectivity incidents which, thanks to GITGE’s diversity policy, did not turn into breakdowns or service incidents. The main lesson for GITGE is to further improve the increase in diversity in international and regional connectivity, and in particular at key distribution and content points.
Q: Equatorial Guinea and Cameroon are linked through of Malabo, Bata and Kribi through a submarine cable called “Ceiba-2”, 400 km long. Can you tell us more?
A: This submarine cable allows a direct connection between the two countries. Until a few years ago, for a call or to send an email from Malabo to Douala, the information had to go to Europe and back to Africa. It doesn’t happen anymore. This cable also gave Equatorial Guinea access to the SAIL submarine cable which originates from Kribi (Cameroon) and reaches Fortaleza in Brazil. With this submarine cable, GITGE has a super-fast connectivity route to the United States.
Q: What is the mobile and fixed Internet capacity in Equatorial Guinea?
A: Sub-Saharan countries are characterized by the absence or limited presence of the fixed network and the global presence of the mobile network. Currently, at mobile network level, 3G services are provided and 4G is active in limited areas of the country. For Internet via a fixed network, in our country we have skipped ADSL and we have gone directly to FTTH. We have a pilot project with user satisfaction results that would have been unimaginable a few years ago. The results are sufficiently encouraging to continue investing in FTTH networks.
Q: To support the fight against Covid-19, how does GITGE plan to increase the speed of Internet access?
A: 2020 will be a very active year in terms of capacity growth and price reductions. On March 1, there was a 33% price drop and with the implementation of the Covid-19 plan, GITGE increased the capacity of internet services by an additional 30% at no cost to operators. This means that the bandwidth has increased by over 100% in three months and its unit cost has decreased by 50%. These increases were carried over to customer promotions, who received free bandwidth on their mobile bond purchases, which benefited customers and represented increased data link sales for carriers.
Q:What policy are you pursuing to attract more foreign investors?
A: International investors expect a country to be open, have clear rules and regulations, and have a trained and focused technology sector to support its business processes. We have an unbeatable geographical location and level of electrical infrastructure, roads, ports to access a huge market if we add countries like Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon, Gabon, etc. GITGE is a technology company with a high degree of internationalization. With GITGE, we act as bridges to facilitate the landing of investment projects, and assure them that from a technological and telecommunications point of view, they will be able to have services and qualities similar to those available in other developed countries. .