Funke Opeke started by creating a company to build a new subsea cable. Then she realised that the West African market needs infrastructure and services, she tells Alan Burkitt-Gray.

It’s seven years in July since Funke Opeke first realised her ambition of creating a broadband cable along the west coast of Africa.

Opeke is a Nigerian electrical engineer who worked in the US for 20 years before leaving Verizon Wholesale in New York in 2005 and returning home to join African mobile operator MTN. She then found local funding for MainOne to build a broadband cable from Seixal in Portugal to Accra in Ghana and onwards to Lagos in Nigeria.

Back in 2010 her plan was to continue driving the cable from Lagos as far as South Africa, but there are rival cables that do that now, and MainOne has shifted its focus to become a data centre operator and Cloud Services Companywith its Tier III MDXi data center facility – focusing, at least for now, on Nigeria. “We realised we had to invest in the ecosystem to support better adoption and that has meant a variety of things,” she says. “It’s meant investing in terrestrial fibre and points of presence across the country so we can get our services closer to some of the smaller internet service providers and businesses.”

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