In Africa, access to the internet is a real development issue. During the last ten years, connectivity on the African continent has undergone significant evolution. Mobile telephone networks have made a significant contribution to democratizing access to the Internet, whether in urban and rural areas, and even remote ones. So where is Africa in terms of internet access?
Internet and Africa in 2017
In the space of 15 years (between 2000 and 2015), the internet penetration rate globally has increased from 6.5% to 43.4%. 3.2 billion people now have internet access. In developing countries, the figure of 2 billion people is put forward.
However, despite the increase in internet penetration, many populations still do not have access to it. Thirty-three sub-Saharan countries are faced with the problem of Internet access.
On the African continent, around 20.7% of the population has access to the internet. This therefore means that more than 872 million Africans still do not have an internet connection.
The vast majority of sub-Saharan internet users connect to the internet using their mobile phones. This behavior can be explained by various factors:
1.Weakness or even non-existence of suitable wired networks.
2.Very high cost of ADSL tax.
3.High cost of peripherals (tablets and desktops and laptops).
In sub-Saharan Africa, more than half of the population (65%) lives in remote areas. This category of the population, whose purchasing power is very low, does not have access to ADSL even if they live in localities served. The cost of the connection is too high for them.
The mobile network behind the development of the internet in Africa
Millions of Africans are turning to mobile networks to connect to the internet. This reality is explained by the wide coverage offered by the latter associated with financial accessibility. The costs remain relatively reasonable.
According to a study by the World Economic Forum, 97% of the African population will own a mobile phone by the end of 2017. Sales of smartphones in Africa are growing significantly. This phenomenon is explained by the investments made by recognized African companies (Orange, Etisalat, etc.) and the diversification of offers.
American giants such as Facebook and Google, aware of the interests that this market can offer them, are investing heavily in Africa.
What strategy does Google plan to put in place?
Africa has more than 910 million mobile phone subscribers. Google has already set up different types of projects in Africa. With the “Project Link” initiative, Google has set itself the goal of providing internet access to the entire African continent to enable people to benefit from low-cost internet access.
However, Google does not want to position itself as an internet service provider. It favors the establishment of partnerships with local businesses. The second initiative put in place by Google concerns “Project Loon” which aims to provide internet access using balloons flying over hard-to-reach areas. This solution has already been tested in the United States, Peru, New Zealand and Sri Lanka. The partnership is with operators specializing in mobile telephony.
The example of Kenya
Kenya is recognized as the country with the best internet connection in the AME region (Africa and Middle East). This performance is explained by the implementation of the national broadband strategy, implemented jointly by the private sector and the Kenyan government.
This cooperation thus allows Kenyans to access optical fiber throughout the country. They also benefit from the option of opting for 4G provided by local telephone operators.
What are the prospects?
Access to the internet is still marginal in Africa. Different areas of development can be considered. Inter-state coordination for better internet governance must be put in place. This should allow different African governments to question the use of the internet in Africa, many disparities still exist.
Despite greater connectivity, the price of connections is often far too high for local populations, with the exception of countries bordering the coast (Ghana, South Africa, Somalia). This price difference is explained by the fact that these states are not far from fiber optic cables, in fact the prices applied are much lower than those charged in other countries.
Some governments such as Benin have taken the decision to intervene at several levels: obligation for operators to make efforts to provide better quality of services, transparency of tariffs, etc.
In addition, there is a need for improvements to local infrastructure. These are non-existent in some countries or obsolete in others.
Despite the initiatives put in place, such as the Alliance for an Affordable Internet, which brings together actors from the private and public sectors, these remain very marginal.
To provide all Africans with quality internet access, it is essential to develop partnerships between States and local actors from the private sector and to equip African countries with adequate infrastructure.