Funke Opeke – NIGERIA’S ICT TOP10

Founder and chief Executive Officer, Main Street Technologies

Ms. Funke Opeke, an electrical engineer and a telecommunications expert, is the founder of Main Street Technologies and chief executive officer of the holding company – Main One Cable. She launched the company in 2010 and has led it to become a leading provider of innovative telecom services and network solutions for businesses in West Africa.

The company has developed a reputation for highly reliable services and has become the preferred provider of wholesale internet services to major telecom operators, ISPs, government agencies, large enterprises and educational institutions in West Africa.

Opeke had a successful telecoms career for 20 years in the United States where the world was fully connected to the web. When she returned to Nigeria in 2005, she discovered that the average young person didn’t know what the internet was. She took it up as a challenge that has to be overcome and set about to change the situation.

The core infrastructure for the internet in Nigeria needed to be fixed. She left her high profile job as chief technical officer at MTN Nigeria and joined Nigerian Telecommunications Limited [NITEL] with hopes that she could bring in her experience from the US’ largest wireless provider where she worked and perhaps lead the way forward to developing the critical infrastructures for internet connectivity in Nigeria.

That didn’t happen in the frustrating work environment at NITEL and she decided to step out even as a lone ranger to put the infrastructures in place. She was dismayed that the dearth of communication infrastructure created a huge information and knowledge gap that was limiting business and education in Nigeria. “We can’t leave an entire generation of young people without proper access to the internet,” she said.

A 7,000-kilometre fibre optic cable needed to be laid across the bottom of the ocean and $240 million needed to be raised for the project. To try to lay cables from Portugal to Nigeria was a revolutionary thinking in 2008 and to raise $240 million then was a bigger project than any leading banker had undertaken in his entire career.

The challenges of money and distance were considerably reduced however by one great quality of the project – the expected impact on society. That was the critical factor that gave her key ally on the project, Mr. Fola Adeola, the motivation and courage that eventually produced the money.

In 2008, Opeke started Main One Cable Company that proceeded with the adventure of laying the cable from Portugal to Nigeria. The project was accomplished but not without a roller coaster ride from hope to frustration back to a new hope and then down to the unexpected – the unimaginable imponderables in the bottom of a boundless sea.

The end was a mission accomplished. A black glass-fibre cable, originating from Portugal, springs forth from the ground at the shore-end landing station in Ajah, Lagos and connects all the big operators in Nigeria and Ghana to the global internet. The result is an instant cyber-revolution in Nigeria.

In 2010, the Main One cable went into service from Ghana and Nigeria to Europe — the first broadband cable to serve any part of West Africa was activated. Communications between West Africa and the rest of the world improved beyond recognition just over night. Since then, the Main One Cable Company has become the provider of broadband infrastructure that has opened up the business and economy to unlimited possibilities. It gave Internet banking in Nigeria a giant leap forward and local e-commerce has blossomed with the emergence of mail order companies, online booking agencies among others.

Main One has put up a professional performance that has changed the perception of Nigerians by the international business community. Opeke runs a company that is tested and trusted to do what it says. She maximizes the use of local content and thus puts a lot of the money back to work in the domestic economy and the knowledge base is built locally.

Direct connection is the proven key to a fast and responsive customer experience in ICT. Beyond its international submarine cable, Main One has in place terrestrial fibers, microwave metro and inter-city networks that guarantee reliable connections via multiple points of presence (POPs) across West Africa. Leveraging its global partnership with other Telcos, Main One has built adequate capacity to provide reliable connectivity for businesses to link up regional and global branches.

Opeke has added one of the biggest forces of transformation to the ICT sector in Nigeria. Main One’s global internet access service now provides direct and secure access to the internet across the globe to the West Africa region that was left behind the rest of the world. Its platform offers direct access to its submarine cable system and the network is directly peered with local and leading global internet exchange points as well as tier-1 networks. The service supports applications that require access to and from the internet in real-time.

Main One offers interconnection services to both facilities-based and non-facilities based providers within its point of presence and landing stations in Lagos and Accra. This offers efficient distribution hubs and provides easy access to major commercial centres in these areas.

The infrastructures are linked to all the major network service providers in each market and to all cable landing stations in the region via metro fiber networks. The interconnection service enables internet service providers, telecoms operators and content providers gain access to other networks and customers to keep their businesses up and running.