MainOne, a leading telecommunications company started by Nigerian woman, is being sold for $320M

Abu Mubarik January 11, 2022
Funke Opeke. Photo credit: Funke Opeke

MainOne, a West African data center and connectivity solutions provider with a presence in Nigeria, Ghana and the Ivory Coast, is being acquired for $320 million by Equinix, an internet company headquartered in Redwood City, California that provides data center services for companies, businesses, and organizations.

Techcrunch reports that the deal is expected to close in the first quarter of 2022 subject to the “satisfaction of customary closing conditions including the requisite regulatory approvals.”

A statement by Equinix explains that acquiring MainOne is the first step in its long-term strategy to become an African carrier neutral digital infrastructure company.

“With more than 200 million people, Nigeria is Africa’s largest economy and, along with Ghana, has become an established data center hub. This makes the acquisition a pivotal entry point for Equinix into the continent,” the company said in the statement.

MainOne has a 7,000-kilometer cable spanning Portugal to West Africa with landing in Accra, Ghana; Dakar, Senegal; Abidjan, Ivory Coast and Lagos, Nigeria, according to Techcrunch.

Techcrunch further reports that MainOne has 1,200 kilometers of terrestrial fiber network across southern Nigeria in Lagos, Edo and Ogun states. Connectivity to terrestrial sites extends across 65 PoPs (points of presence) in cities across Portugal, Nigeria, Ghana and the Ivory Coast.

What is more, it is used by 800 business-to-business customers. They include major international technology enterprises, social media companies, global telecommunications operators, financial service companies and cloud service providers.

MainOne was founded by Nigeria entrepreneur Funke Opeke after having a successful telecom career in the United States. Upon her return to Nigeria, she was shocked to find the low level of internet connectivity in the West African country.

The average young person did not know what the internet was, after all, most of the online communication in the country at the time ran through satellite networks.

What was lacking was a stable physical connection to the internet, and to help find a solution, the trained electrical engineer joined the Nigerian public telecoms company, NITEL. She was with MTN Nigeria as a chief technical officer when she decided to move to NITEL, thinking that she could help bring change to an almost broken government institution to better the lives of all while providing proper access to the internet.

But unable to fit in due to some reported corrupt practices that derailed her dreams, she left to start Main One Cable Company in 2008. The company went ahead to lay a 7,000km fiber optic cable across the bottom of the ocean, from Portugal to Nigeria. With entrepreneur and philanthropist Fola Adeola, who is now the chairman of the company, Opeke raised $240 million to start the project.

And though it wasn’t easy raising such an amount, the project did pay off. Essentially, Main One provided the broadband connection that providers could not live without. Soon, Nigeria’s city, Lagos, witnessed a boost to internet speeds, and with this came the rise of startups as well as mail order companies like Jumia and Konga, and then Uber, a report by Aljazeera said.

Soon, Google started getting in touch with Opeke. Her company also began holding talks with campuses in Nigeria that needed a broadband network. In 2012, Opeke received the CNBC All Africa Businesswoman of the Year award. Recently invited to chair the Nigerian National Broadband Plan 2020 – 2025, the electrical engineer has also been to the White House to hold talks about internet connectivity for all, including unserved populations in Africa.

Indeed, MainOne, throughout the years, has helped build internet capacity for various companies but it hasn’t been all smooth. For Opeke, one of the biggest challenges has been raising capital, and the fact that the company’s distributed operations still face power challenges.

“We are critical to the digital infrastructure of West Africa, no doubt, and we expect that we will continue to grow that as part of the global platform that Equinix brings,” Opeke spoke with Techcrunch last December about the deal with Equinix.

“It’s a fantastic story that we can grow as part of that global platform and have access to additional investment capability, the technology and the solutions they have to offer the global customers who are increasingly wanting to do business in our region.”

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: January 12, 2022


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