Meet Funke Opeke: The First Nigerian Woman To Build A 7000km Submarine Cable From Europe To Africa

Nigerian Electrical Engineer, Funke Opeke is Founder of Main Street Technologies and Chief Executive Officer of Main One Cable Company, West Africa’s leading communications services and network solutions provider.

After a successful career in telecoms in the United States, Funke Opeke upon her return to Nigeria in 2005 couldn’t believe the low level of internet connectivity and lack of knowledge that greeted her.

She noticed the lack of a stable physical connection to the internet, she sought solution and joined the Nigerian public telecoms company, NITEL.

Funke Opeke later moved on to start MainOne in 2008, MainOne is West Africa’s leading communications services and network solutions provider. The company built West Africa’s first privately owned, open access 7,000-kilometer undersea high capacity cable submarine stretching from Portugal to South Africa with landings along the route in Accra, Ghana and Lagos, Nigeria.

Main One succeded in providing broadband connection which led to Lagos’ boost of internet speeds, which in help launch startups as well as mail order companies like Jumia and Konga, and then Uber, a report by Aljazeera said.

Word spread and soon enough, Google got in touch with Opeke and the rest like they say is history. 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, reports say.

Though Main One, over ten years has helped build internet capacity for various companies the journey 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.

Even when her team first laid the cable in 2010, the idea of private submarine cables was still very new to many regulators, hence, she found it difficult to secure the permits to connect the countries along the way, between Nigeria and Europe.

“To solve this, we put up branching units which are just connectors so the cable can extend to those markets,” she said in the interview.

“As we continued exploring opportunities, a fabulous one came up with Orange. They were already present in two markets, and it made sense, commercially, to partner with them considering their status as a major provider and the compelling technical solution we provided for them.”

Opeke’s Main One has also entered some great partnerships with the Orange Group in its entry into Ivory Coast and Senegal, and Vertiv for the expansion of its data centre services. “We’ll continue to expand our data centre footprint. Within Nigeria, we’ll expand to places like Lekki, Sagamu, and several others. Across the region, we are also looking to enter other West African states,” Opeke told Tech Point Africa in an interview this July when the company celebrated its 10th anniversary.

The tech guru obtained a Bachelor and master’s degree in Electrical Engineering from Obafemi Awolowo University and Columbia University respectively. After she graduated from Columbia University, she followed with a career in ICT in the United States as an executive director with the wholesale division of Verizon Communications in New York City. In 2005, she joined MTN Nigeria as chief technical officer (CTO). She served as adviser at Transcorp and chief operating officer of NITEL for a brief period.

 

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