Why are there so few submarine cables between Africa and South America?

Map of transatlantic submarine cable lines as of 2014, courtesy of SubmarineCableMap.com.

Map of transatlantic submarine cable lines as of 2014, courtesy of SubmarineCableMap.com.

I think looking at the map on the right shows how stratified the layout of communication technology is for the Atlantic Ocean region. So much up top and spilling vertically down (on both sides), but so little between the bottom.

Why are there so few submarine cables between Africa and South America? Between Nigeria/South Africa/Angola and Brazil/Argentina/Venezuela?

Surely there would be lots of historical links to share between the two continents, such as post-colonial, post-slavery histories? Or especially the large portion of slaves from West Africa heading to the Portuguese colony of Brazil? Or the histories of exploitation of labor and natural resources? Or musical and artistic commonalities?

I mean, Brazil literally faces several African countries along the same set of latitudinal lines (more so than a good portion of North America faces Europe), but yet there are maybe one or two submarine cable lines between these countries.

Why is that? Is it neglect? Is it money? Is it racial anxiety (which would be weird gives how many Europe-to-Africa lines there are)? Is it linguistics?

And what would be gained if this were changed with the building of new lines between the two regions?

I think that more equitable trade, cultural ties, freedom of expression, and all institutions which depend upon these developments would only gain in strength and viability – while shrinking only in cost barriers and administrative burdens. It would also reduce the cost of communication between other regions which go through these regions (especially South Asia, which has several cables running to East Africa).

So I’m glad to read that there are two lines currently being built between the two regions: SACS (South Atlantic Cable System) between Fortaleza/Fernando de Noronha (Brazil) and Sangano (Angola) in 2016, and SAEx (South Atlantic Express) between Fortaleza and Windhoek (Namibia)/Mtunzini/Yzerfontein (South Africa)/St. Helena in 2017.

These lines will be the first to connect the two continents directly. I hope that they will help bridge the gap between these two superactors in the Global South.

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