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27 Jun 2024

Kenn Abuya, Techcabal

Kenya: Safaricom under pressure for conflicting explanations over two-hour internet outage

"Safaricom under pressure for conflicting explanations over two-hour internet outage in Kenya"

Kenyan telecoms giant Safaricom has come under pressure after it released conflicting statements on a nationwide internet outage on Tuesday. The disruption lasted over two hours and coincided with countrywide protests over the now-withdrawn 2024 Finance Bill.  On Tuesday night, Safaricom reported an internet outage due to a problem with one of its underground cables. However, internet observatory platform Netblocks disputed this claim, stating no evidence of physical cable damage. Major undersea cable companies serving East Africa, including TEAMs, SEACOM, and Eassy, also didn’t report service disruptions on their cables.

The company’s CEO, Peter Ndegwa, later claimed the entire telco industry was affected. However, other internet service providers in the region did not announce the outage, save for Airtel Kenya, which said that its services were intermittent but not completely unavailable. Customers were surprised by how quickly Safaricom fixed the outage, considering undersea cable cuts usually take days or weeks to identify and repair. 

Telecom companies often have built-in redundancies to handle outages. Safaricom might have been able to reroute traffic through alternative channels while they diagnosed the main problem, which would explain why services were available after a short period. Safaricom’s internet disruption irked customers and some of its biggest creative partners, including social media influencers. Tens of them, including former rugby player and chef Ombachi Dennis, cut ties with the company. “I won’t be working with you, as your values are not aligned with mine,” Ombachi posted o