Africa and Internet: bridging the digital divide
The General Assembly of the United Nations adopted an ambitious 2030 Agenda that includes, among other Sustainable Development Goals, eradicating extreme poverty, ensuring quality education and reducing social inequalities. Universal access to the Internet plays a very significant role in achieving these goals, since there are 3.6 billion people who, according to the UN, still do not have an Internet connection and cannot access online information or opt for online education, telehealth services or teleworking. Digital divide in Africa is one of the main focus.
In the context of the covid-19 pandemic, the need to implement measures to bridge the digital divide between developed and developing countries has become even more evident. What is the extent of this digital divide? It is enough to analyze some indicators such as those offered by the Digital 2020 Global Overview Report, prepared by Hootsuite and We are social.
Digital Divide in Africa
According to this study, in Africa, with 453.2 million users, Internet penetration represents only 34% of the population. Although this represents an increase of 10% compared to 2019, there is still a large gap to cover if we compare it, for example, with the figures for Europe: 84% penetration (711.3 million users), with a slight increase of 1.6% compared to 2019. It should be added that internet penetration on the African continent is also well below the world average (59%), with a 7% increase compared to 2019.
And the big question is: what is being done and what needs to be improved to increase connectivity in Africa?
Moving from a luxury good to an essential good
One of the factors affecting the level of Internet penetration in Africa is the high cost of connection, and in order to solve this problem, experts consider it essential to have national plans to reduce costs. This is pointed out in the Affordability Report 2020 of the Alliance for Affordable Internet, which analyzes the degree of progress in public policies to reduce the cost of Internet access and highlights the importance of the existence of national broadband plans. This report points out, on a positive note, that Africa sees the greatest progress in the formulation of public policies and, although it is still the region at the tail end of affordability indicators, it has experienced since 2019 an improvement of 6.7%.
As connoisseurs of the reality, working from the field in African countries since 2013, we can affirm that there is no turning back in Africa’s connectivity and we are very pleased to contribute, from the private sphere, in a more prosperous future for this continent, unjustly forgotten by the ICT sector. At AFR-IX Telecom we have always been aware of Africa’s potential and the business opportunity it represents. Today, our company provides Internet and data services to companies and local operators in Africa, and we connect countries through terrestrial and submarine cables. AFR-IX telecom has 12 offices in Africa: Senegal, Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Ghana, South Africa, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Equatorial Guinea, Democratic Republic of Congo and Mali.
Through our extensive Pan-African Network, we are proud to offer global coverage services in more than 50 countries in Africa to connect to any city in the world. In order to provide the most efficient service at the lowest cost, AFR-IX has developed a fiber optic network with MPLS (Multiprotocol Label Switching), the most efficient technology for secure data transport and with the lowest economic investment. We are also working on the African continent with different Internet exchange points: NAPAfrica (Internet Exchange Point in Johannesburg, South Africa), IXPN (Internet Exchange Point in Lagos, Nigeria), DjIX (Internet Exchange Point in Djibouti), Asteroid IXP (Internet Exchange Point in Mombasa) and Kinix (Kinshasa Internet Exchange Point)
We will continue to focus on connecting Africa to the world and, in this regard, submarine cables will play a key role with major projects in the coming years. Our ultimate goal would be to achieve the 2030 Agenda and for the African population to transform the Internet from a luxury good into an essential good.