Internet for Africa

November 3, 2009

With the mobile phone industry rapidly expanding across the continent, African countries are now looking towards the future- offering easier access to the Internet for everyone.

Currently, the total number of Internet users on a continent of almost one billion people is only a staggering 7% according to Internet World Stats.

World Bank reported the average retail price in 2006 for basic Internet connection in sub-Saharan Africa was US $366 a month, a price beyond the reach of most people on a continent where the average income per year in most countries is below $1,000.

One fiber-optic cable, which was finished this year, links Eastern Africa to Asia.  West and Southern Africa have a similar connection to Europe.  Before, Africa was relying on solely on satellite based connections.  In a BBC video, a reporter states,

“Right now there’s not really enough competition.  There’s one cable, several others are due to arrive soon, and the Internet service providers don’t seem that t keen, at the moment, according to most Kenyans, to drop their prices as far as they should. The cable company says it’s brought the price of connectivity down as much as 90% while ordinary Kenyans are only seeing the cost of connection halved really and that still puts it way beyond the reach of many.” (1:19- 1:49)

Costs are expected to continue dropping, but in such countries as South Africa where it is estimated to fall by 10% to 20% annually, rates will still never be as low as the US or UK according to

Douglas Reed, CEO of South Africa’s Vox Telecom says,

“There are only about 2million PC Internet users in the country and we need to get to 20-million to bring prices down significantly.”


Even with access to faster Internet connections blogs such as BBC’s World Have Your Say are asking:

“… how much can high-speed Internet really change a continent? Faster downloads won’t erase corruption and terrible infrastructure… will they?”

And Nigerian Internet entrepreneur said they just might:

“Because of technology, the negotiation between government and the governed has changed permanently. Now, it seems, the aforementioned coup-plotter who seeks to undemocratically change a government must do much more than seal off a few broadcast stations and newspapers to silence a nation. All of a sudden, every African is a journalist and there are a multitude of information paths into, out of and within the continent. Perverse political forces can no longer as readily control our collective mind.”


For now there are still obstacles holding Africa back from taking advantage of the information on the web, but with more competitors, newer and cheaper technology being developed, and with investments from abroad, the continent now has hope of connecting with the rest of the world sooner than ever before.