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Household Internet speeds for 25 African countries, cities

April 7, 2011  »  Broadband & StatisticsOne Comment

Curious to see actual consumer download speeds on the ground in Africa? Look no further – Net Index, utilizing their SpeedTest.net bandwidth speed measurement tool, has tracked download and upload speeds for 169 countries. Better yet, substantial data exists for nearly half of the countries on the African continent.

Update: Google’s Public Data Explorer can provide a visualization of this data.

Net Index by Ookla

{Net Index}

Net Index provides summaries of the average household Internet speeds at a national level, a city level, and an ISP level, along with global rank. The data, available for free, is unquestionably accurate and comes from tests initiated by the end-user. However, the majority of African data likely comes from large cities that shadow the Internet performance in rural areas. Therefore, the national averages found in the data set may represent urban speeds rather than rural speeds. Additionally the key word here is “household” and not “corporate” or “university”.

tanzania net index graph - april 2011

Tanzanian household download speeds increased when the Seacom cable landed in mid-2009 {Net Index}

Either way, download and upload speeds match up – the median African rank for download speed is 138. Upload? 139. Download speeds hover around 2 Mbps while uploads perform at 1 Mbps. For reference, 2 Mbps equates to a file transfers at 256 kb/s.

Download Index

CountryDown RankDown (Mbps)Up (Mbps)Up Rank
Ghana339.806.5415
Libya644.791.5066
Kenya873.210.94103
Rwanda883.183.1229
South Africa932.921.1881
Mali942.891.4965
Tunisia1122.130.86112
Reunion1142.090.18167
Zimbabwe1152.081.7656
Mozambique1221.950.9895
Morocco1231.930.40158
Uganda1261.851.0297
Namibia1381.580.57141
Nigeria1431.370.96104
Egypt1501.220.41157
Mauritius1511.200.23165
Madagascar1531.120.43155
Swaziland1540.991.0891
Algeria1550.940.42156
Botswana1560.930.62139
Tanzania1580.880.43154
Cote d'Ivoire1590.880.39160
Zambia1600.860.41150
Sudan1630.810.46151
Malawi1640.800.44153

Network speeds vary widely, but range from 0.80 Mbps in Malawi to 9.80 Mbps in Ghana. For comparison, South Korean speeds approach 32 Mbps. The United States and the United Kingdom, ranked 29th and 32nd respectively, are in the 10 Mbps range.

Perhaps most notable is the performance of the Ghanaian consumer Internet. The nation ranks 33rd internationally and is well ahead of other African nations in terms of household network speed. In Accra, users report 11.55 Mbps download speeds. Ghana’s upload speeds aren’t far behind (see Upload Index). In this case, it is apparent that Accra is skewing the national statistics – rural areas experience much, much slower speeds.

Additional Download Speed Notes:

  • The average unique IP from Africa performed 4 speed tests over the period
  • # of tests used to calculate the average speed varies from 141 (Swaziland) to 128,668 (South Africa)
  • 21 of the 25 African nations listed are in the bottom half of the global speed list
  • Tanzania lags neighbors Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda by a factor of 2-4
  • Mali’s speeds are surprisingly high and appear skewed by Bamako
  • Rwanda’s upload speed is essentially identical to download speed
  • In Swaziland, the download speed is slower than the upload speed
  • In most cases, urban download speeds outpace national average speeds – exception are Mombasa (Kenya is skewed by Nairobi), Abuja and Port Harcourt (Nigeria is skewed by Lagos)
  • Zambian overall speeds are faster than speeds in Lusaka
  • Sudanese overall speeds are faster than speeds in Khartoum
  • Kampala and Uganda are synonymous, as are Mbabane and Swaziiland and Gaborone and Botswana

Download Speed Trends:

  • Upward: Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, Cote d’Ivoire, Tunisia, Morocco, Tanzania, Zambia (recent), Nigeria (recent)
  • Erratic: Rwanda, Mali, Zimbabwe, Swaziland
  • Flat: Reunion, Mozambique, Uganda, Namibia, Egypt, Algeria, Botswana, Sudan
  • Downward: Mauritius, Madagascar, Malawi
  • Libya: recent spike due to resumption of access

Upload Index

Somehow, Ghanaians who use SpeedTest.net record 7.70 Mbps upload speeds. On the whole, Ghana ranks 15th in upload speed (vs. 33rd in download). Perhaps the data is skewed by the fact that most Internet users in Ghana live in Accra and those performing the test use Ghana Telecom as an ISP. Based on the ISP speed results, Ghana Telecom is light years ahead of the other ISPs in Ghana, at least in terms of speed.

Upload Speed Notes:

  • Upload speeds range from 0.18 Mbps (Reunion) to 6.54 Mbps (Ghana)
  • File transfer speeds generally range from = 50 kb/s to 140 kb/s.
  • Based on rank, upload speeds in Kenya, Reunion, and Morocco are relatively slow compared to download speeds.
  • Rwanda ranks 60 spots higher on upload speed than on download speed.
  • Mali, Zimbabwe, and Swaziland have relatively strong upload speeds compared with download speed.

Lastly, the table showing measured average download speed by city:

CityDown Speed (Mbps)
Accra11.55
Bamako3.55
Nairobi3.38
Harare2.30
Maputo2.02
Kampala1.89
Windhoek1.87
Lagos1.83
Mombasa1.38
Antananarivo1.18
Mbabane0.99
Dar es Salaam0.99
Gaborone0.93
Abuja0.93
Abidjan0.90
Port Harcourt0.54
Khartoum0.48
Lusaka0.32

Net Index is working to provide data so to inform business decisions, shape broadband policy, and learn how ISPs interact on a demographic level. An additional index in the works will “illuminate the cost of broadband everywhere” and another index aims to help consumers find a quality ISP in their area. Who knows if that feature will be available for Africans – the current quality index is not available outside Egypt or South Africa due to low volume. Still, it will be interesting to track download and upload speeds on the city level as more data becomes available.

Data notes:

  • Graphs chart data from October 2008 – April 2011 (32 months). Unfortunately, the graphs do not contain a labeled x-axis, but time has been divided into 5 regions of approximately 6 1/2 months each.
  • The Mbps value is the rolling mean throughput over the past 30 days where the mean distance between the client and the server is less than 300 miles.
  • ISP speeds are listed only if 100 users have performed the speed test.
  • Of all African download tests, only 3% were used to calculate the average speeds.