A privately-funded consortium, Seacom, commissioned its Sh59 billion ($760m) undersea cable in Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Uganda and South Africa with Rwanda set to be linked up in the next two weeks.
This effectively means that Kenya is now part of the global information superhighway and will be able to compete on a more level platform with more established economies.
The commissioning in Mombasa, was marked with a live telecast by Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete in Dar es Salaam, who was linked with journalists in Kampala, Maputo, Johannesburg, London and Marseille.
“The arrival of this cable signals the beginning of a new era in the telecommunications sector,” said Mr Kikwete. “History has been made.”
Eastern Africa has been the only region in the world not connected through an undersea fibre optic cable and has had to rely on the more expensive satellites whose charges have been as high as Sh540,000 ($7,000) per megabyte.
“Today is the day technology has arrived in Africa,” said Cisco Systems vice-president Le Roux, whose firm provided the technology for the cable.
Seacom announced that it would offer wholesale prices in the range of Sh7,700 ($100) per megabyte, with even more subsidised costs of between Sh770 and Sh1,925 ($10-$25) to schools, research and health institutions.
“Broadband will change the connectivity and economy of Africa,” said Seacom president Brian Herlihy in a live feed from the Tanzanian capital.
Five yet-to-be-named internet companies were the first to access the 6,500 kilometre-cable and will now connect their equipment to the marine cable as they prepare to link offices and homes.
However, the consortium warned the public that they will have to wait a little longer for cheaper Internet as industry players will first want to recoup their investments.