internet africa

Why internet growth in Africa is still slow

Despite a multitude of completed and work-in-progress mega projects meant to make the internet accessible to all Africans, it has been found that the internet sector in Africa has been growing at a very slow rate.

A study released this week in the Tanzanian capital Dar-es-Salaam by the African Peering and Interconnection Forum (AfPIF) has attributed this unfortunate trend to users lacking compelling reasons to connect.

The “Promoting Content in Africa” report has revealed that content and services are the main factors in making the internet desirable, especially when the subject matter is relevant and in a language that users can easily understand.

However, the lack of local content and services is affecting the number of new online users in Africa.

“In Sub-Saharan Africa in particular, local language content is key to bringing new users online, as many are not comfortable reading in English or French,” the study said.

The report outlines the barriers to the development of local content and offers recommendations to improve local content availability and distribution.

The shocking findings also include the following:
“In Sub-Saharan Africa, the majority of international and locally developed content is hosted outside the country, typically overseas.

“This results in slow Internet speeds and higher access costs. In Rwanda for example, of all websites using the .RW domain name, only a small fraction are hosted in Rwanda. The majority of sites are hosted in Europe and the U.S. Hosting content locally is key to making the Internet faster and more affordable for users.”

The “Promoting Content in Africa” study said that SSA continues to face a combination of barriers, including the inability to pay and receive payments for mobile applications, which serve as a major channel for content distribution in most African countries.

As mobile financial services are becoming increasingly available in the African continent, monetising mobile content is still a major challenge.

“Faster and better Internet access can help entrepreneurs create new local content including services and applications, but developers face barriers when it comes to payment mechanisms in order to monetise content,” Bastiaan Quast, Internet Society Fellow and co-author of the report, said.

“Removing barriers to content availability and distribution will have significant impacts on the Internet ecosystem in Africa. It will help to make existing international content more accessible,” explained Dawit Bekele, Internet Society Regional Bureau Director for Africa.

AfPIF said it was aiming to build cross-border interconnection opportunities by facilitating discussions on Internet infrastructure challenges including capacity building, development of Internet Exchange Points (IXP) and local content.

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