South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia and Ivory Coast have been affected by large-scale internet shutdowns

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  • By Natasha Booty and Moses Koli Garzevu
  • BBC News in London and Monrovia

image Source, getty images

Major internet disruptions have been reported in various countries in Africa.

Widespread power outages were reported Thursday in countries including South Africa, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Benin, Ghana and Burkina Faso.

Since then, services have largely been restored in Liberia and South Africa.

The cause of the cable failure was not immediately clear, frustrating millions of customers across the continent.

“There appears to be a pattern in the timing of the disruptions, which are impacting Africa from north to south,” said Cloudflare Radar, which provides information about internet connections.

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), which regulates the telecommunications industry, said the outage was caused by damage to international undersea cables running along the West African coastline.

“Outages occurred sporadically in Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal, with disruption also occurring in Portugal,” NCC spokesman Ruben Muoka said.

A retired expert told the BBC that undersea cables can sometimes be cut, even by debris.

He added: “You may also see the earth beneath the sea slide – parts of the seabed may become unstable, allowing huge amounts of mud to flow into a valley or drain.”

“Where cables come ashore and are buried underground, there may be a risk of accidental or deliberate damage.”

Whatever the reason, it has resulted in great difficulties for those who depend on the Internet for livelihood.

“It’s impossible to communicate with my customers – I even needed to arrange delivery through an online app,” fashion designer Chek Senou told the BBC from Abidjan, Ivory Coast, on Friday.

“I couldn’t do anything without the Internet.”

Internet connectivity in Ivory Coast was down to about 4% on Thursday morning, according to NetBlocks, which tracks cybersecurity and internet connectivity.

NetBlocks said at one point Liberia fell to 17% while Benin was at 14% and Ghana at 25%.

In South Africa, Vodacom said on Thursday that customers were experiencing “intermittent connectivity issues due to multiple undersea cable failures”.

An outage was also reported on the MainOne cable system serving Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial hub.

The Liberian government confirmed on Thursday that internet disruptions had been reported since that morning.

Citizens in much of the country were unable to access basic internet as well as social media. International bank transfers were also reported to be affected while international voice calls were limited.

“It feels like 50% of my life is gone today,” Benjamin Garkpa told the BBC from Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, on Thursday.

Fatumata Barry said his business had come to a standstill because he could not receive payments through mobile money.

The Liberia Telecommunications Authority said it was caused by an incident involving the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) submarine communications cable in Ivory Coast.

In Ghana, the National Communications Authority (NCA) reported that several undersea cable disruptions were responsible for the power outages.

Additional reporting by George Wright and Nicholas Ngose

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