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Country-by-country African ICT highlights from 2014

December 31, 2014  »  NewsOne Comment

We’ve gone through all of our 2014 news roundups to highlight the top telecoms developments for each African country.

Last year, we bookmarked 2,000 newsworthy articles, stories, posts, and features on African Internet progress. Many provided only a quick update, but just as many gave an in-depth look into how Africans are engaging with technology.

The list below is far from exhaustive, though it provides a quick rundown of what themes were in the spotlight last year. Every African country is represented though some nations have relatively few points. In these cases, a limited digital media presence is often to blame.

Algeria

  • Commercial 3G was finally available and saw rapid adoption, with tens of thousands of subscribers in the first couple of weeks. Most provinces now have coverage and there is competition from three operators. Mobile LTE will begin in 2015. Algerian youth utilized social media to speak out in advance of April elections.

Angola

  • Unitel continues to advance technology offerings with LTE testing. Angola Telecom is shooting for a profit in 2015. The government is taking efforts to ensure long-term internet adoption (5 million users by 2017) and has created free internet access points. An undersea fibre link with Brazil is in the works to boost international bandwidth.

Benin

  • Moov launched 3G service and MTN launched cross-border remittance in the region. The annual Internet week discussions aimed to make the country a digital hub.

Botswana

  • Legal framework for e-commerce was improved. FoFinet slashed wholesale bandwidth tariffs by 40%. The telecoms regulator launched a comprehensive five-year strategy. Social media was used more than ever during October’s general elections. Other updates include an upcoming IXP and pending TV white space trials.

Burkina Faso

  • The government dropped plans to issue a fourth mobile license and will instead focus on backbone projects. Quality of internet service remains a concern though the number of internet subscribers tripled from 2012-2013. A national week of internet panels focused on online child protection. Grassroots efforts like tech hubs, open data groups, and an Internet Society chapter continue to spur high level discussion and entrepreneurship in Ouagadougou.

Burundi

  • A $25 million fibre network was launched early in the year. An IXP was launched in Bujumbura as well. The government continues to focus on the privatization of Onatel. 3G competition continues to increase with Smart Telecom’s launch in September.

Cameroon

  • A monopoly on 3G access continues to hurt users though Orange and MTN will likely begin service in 2015 A tough regulatory environment continues to make business difficult. PayPal is now available in the country and e-commerce giant Jumia now has operations in Cameroon. Gaming company Kiroo Games raised $115,000 in funding. ActivSpaces launched Cameroon’s first accelerator with 4.6M FCFA per startup.

Cape Verde

  • The government has committed to further push the ICT sector. Internet access rates remain relatively high and are only growing by 10% annually. An IXP is coming in the near future.

Central African Republic

  • SMS was temporarily suspended in Bangui (in June) due to security concerns. SIM registration began in July though the process faced major challenges (many subscribers lack proof of ID). Satellite continues to connect rural areas.

Chad

  • The government announced plans to partially privatize the state telecoms company. Airtel launched 3G service and also received a 4G license. Tigo reportedly tested 4G in N’Djamena. An internet governance forums was held for the first time to discuss high level policy.

Comoros

  • The privatization process of Comores Telecom was suspended. An IXP training program was held.

Congo-Brazzaville

  • The Central African Backbone project continues to make progress though results aren’t yet seen on the ground. Internet access remains limited though blogger groups are supporting local content. VMK plans on opening a smartphone/tablet manufacturing facility soon. Bantuhub continues to offer ICT resources to entrepreneurs in the capital.

Cote D’Ivoire

  • The government is cracking down on cyber crime. YooMee launched commercial LTE in Abidjan as Orange trialed LTE. PayPal became available in the country. Qelasy, an Ivorian-engineered tablet is aiding students. Internet cafe registration culminated with 400 businesses officially registered by late December.

Dem. Rep. of Congo

  • A nascent apps market should take hold in 2015. Government employees are paid by M-Pesa (a great idea in theory but often less so in practice). The WACS cable connection is now active with 650km of fibre running from the landing point in Muanda to Kinshasa. 3G is operational in most regions (and from multiple operators) and 4G is being tested. ICT was to help with a national census.

Djibouti

  • Djibouti’s location continues to improve East Africa’s internet speeds (many undersea cables connect here) though actual speeds on the ground are slow.

Egypt

  • Mass surveillance of social media remains a real threat. The Ministry of Communications and IT is focused on boosting the nation’s GDP through better ICT regulations. Telecom infrastructure needs to be updated to keep up with a demand for mobile broadband.

Equatorial Guinea

  • The nation’s top level domain, .gq, will be offered for free in hopes of boosting local content creation.

Eritrea

  • Internet access remains nearly non-existent and there’s little government support for progress. New libraries with computer centers are springing up around the country, however.

Ethiopia

  • Online surveillance continues to define how citizens access the internet. Zone 9 bloggers were arrested in 2014. Still, a tech industry is emerging thanks to home-grown entrepreneurs and facilities like iceaddis and xHub. Ethio Telecom claimed 4.5 million internet subscribers as of mid-year.

Gabon

  • Airtel’s 3G service covers all provincial capitals. Gabon Telecom turned on commercial LTE in Libreville after also lowering broadband tariffs by 50% mid-year. 90-94% of internet subscriptions are mobile. SIM registration is required by April. A connection to the Central African Backbone was made and should increase bandwidth.

The Gambia

  • VoIP services like Viber remained blocked for the first half of the year. An internet exchange point went live to reduce connectivity costs. A 2020 vision was launched to boost ICT engagement. The nation remains one of the most repressive in terms of internet freedom, according to Freedom House.

Ghana

  • Surfline deployed commercial LTE service. The government is leading ICT integration efforts across all sectors and removed a 20% tax on smartphone importation. The Alliance for Affordable Internet is working on improving internet access at a lower cost. Mobile internet subscriptions often increased by 5-10% per month throughout 2014. Messaging app Saya was acquired by a US-based tech firm. Cable cuts remain a major issue (1,370 in the first half of the year).

Guinea

  • 3G service will be available by the end of 2015. Orange has a network presence in all 303 rural communities. The ACE submarine cable landing was inaugurated in May. The regulator claimed a 350% annual increase in the number of internet users. Still, the nation’s online community is still very small (as lamented by multiple bloggers).

Guinea-Bissau

  • Orange tested 3G in advance of elections which were monitored by a select few using social media. The nation’s own top level domain, .gw, was officially launched.

Kenya

  • Despite being billed as “Silicon Savannah,” Kenya is facing criticism for failing to produce profitable startups or attract major investors. A Nakuru County free Wi-Fi project got a lot of attention early in the year before it was plagued by poor performance. The nation continues to be a leader in mobile payments. The communications regulator CCK re-branded as Communications Authority of Kenya and refined its mission for ICT. A need to balance free speech and hate speech remains. Kenya still leads Africa in terms of bandwidth per person (and at low cost). The nation’s 4G saga should come to an end in 2015 now that Safaricom launched LTE in parts of Nairobi and Mombasa. Facebook and Airtel partnered to bring the heralded Internet.org app to the country.

Lesotho

  • Vodacom made news for launching LTE. ICT is being used more in schools. Challenges are connecting rural areas of the country.

Liberia

  • Hopes of boosting the country’s development using ICT were dashed with the ebola outbreak later in the year. Digital learning did allow for some forms of education to continue despite school closures.

Libya

  • The nation continues to modernize its telecoms sector. Nokia opened and office and Alcatel-Lucent is partnering to deploy a fibre cable between Tripoli and Benghazi. Universities still face inadequate internet access. ICT is being used to register voters.

Madagascar

  • The tech ecosystem continues to prepare for the future. Hubs like Habaka are encouraging tech entrepreneurship.

Malawi

  • Internet costs are still high but have decreased by 50% in the past five years. Youth used social media (more than politicians, perhaps) ahead of national elections. A TV white space project is already making a difference in education and medicine.

Mali

  • A 1,000km fiber cable was inaugurated with 20 Gbps capacity. A variety of local projects are improving digital literacy and promoting Malian culture. A long-term plan for the year 2020 hopes to reorganize the digital economy.

Mauritania

  • Efforts are being made to boost cyber security. Experts participated in an IXP creation session.

Mauritius

  • The Minister of ICT wants to make the island a ‘Smart State.’ The island is becoming recognized globally for its strong ICT business environment. Still, ICT’s share of GDP was flat in 2013. Mauritius Telecom is to cut tariffs early next year.

Mayotte

  • 4G spectrum was assigned by French regulator Arcep. A 350km fibre cable is to link Mayotte with Comoros.

Morocco

  • Efforts are being made to develop better online payments. The government launched a new version of its e-governance portal. National 4G auctions have been launched; Maroc Telecom is testing 4G in Rabat.

Mozambique

  • The country joined the Alliance for Affordable Internet in hopes of strengthening infrastructure investment and citizen awareness of the internet. Movitel has 80% geographic coverage with 2G/3G. A few tech incubators are promoting entrepreneurship – in Maputo and beyond.

Namibia

  • Microsoft is supporting a TV white spaces project. Stricter cyber laws are in the works and the government also has a Universal Access Service and Content Policy plan. Five ISPs are connected to the Windhoek Internet Exchange Point. MTC partnered with universities to offer discounted Wi-Fi. Voters were able to cast electronic ballets during a November election.

Niger

  • The country’s first ever Startup Weekend was held in Niamey in April. Orange is supporting a startup incubator in the city. Airtel received a 3G license.

Nigeria

  • There continues to be great momentum from both the public and the private sectors. Lagos is considered to be a top investment destination in Africa. Nigeria’s Minister of Communication Technology, Omobola Johnson, issued dozens of statements relating to how technology should be used for development. the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag received an overwhelming amount of attention though its effectiveness was mixed. E-commerce continues to rapidly grow (with 2mm users) and PayPal became available for the first time. The Alliance for Affordable Internet is working in the country to improve access. Over 11,000 domain names were registered by August.

Reunion

  • 4G spectrum was assigned by French regulator Arcep. Orange will bring FTTH to 20,000 households in Saint-Denis by early 2016.

Rwanda

  • The nation’s heralded 4G LTE network launched in November. An emphasis on teaching youth ICT skills is starting to pay dividends. The government (and President Kagame) continue to vocally support broadband initiatives.

Sao Tome And Principe

  • Unitel is poised to launch and will end a telecoms monopoly.

Senegal

  • Samsung showcased solar powered internet schools. The telecoms regulator set up a new quality of service monitoring group. Orange launched 4G pilot tests in 40 locations. Efforts (currently in the consulting phase) are being made to protect citizens’ personal data.

Seychelles

  • Airtel launched a 4G LTE network. The Chamber of Commerce continues to promote ICT.

Sierra Leone

  • Internet cafe registration was held. Mobile is changing lives better digital literacy programs are relatively scarce. Rules for the ACE cable system were worked out earlier in the year.

Somalia

  • In January, al-Shabaab temporarily banned mobile service in parts of the country. Better fibre connectivity arrived mid-year. LTE is coming shortly.

South Africa

  • The Internet economy is undoubtedly one of the fastest growing in the world. Questions about the viability of South Africa’s broadband policy continue to dominate headlines. As does criticism of the Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services. Project Isizwe was touted as a solution for city-level free Wi-Fi (as were TV white space trials). South Africa’s fifth democratic general elections were heavily discussed online.

St.Helena

  • The first cell network was delayed and the nation may get 3G or 4G if a submarine cable comes ashore.

South Sudan

  • South Sudan government says it’s planning for better internet, namely international bandwidth and a telecoms regulator. Mobile penetration stands around 20%  with internet near 1% (very rural). Online discussion of hate speech is headed in the right direction.

Sudan

  • U.S. sanctions continue to hurt tech entrepreneurship (as do limits on internet freedom from within Sudan). The government continues to crack down on the press and has looked at ways to block negative websites. Zain launched mobile financial services and can launch LTE within months if given permission by the regulator.

Swaziland

  • Social media has become an alternative form of information exchange for the young people who are marginalized by the mainstream media. SwaziLeaks is using the internet to reveal what goes on behind government walls. A new IXP was launched in Mbabane.

Tanzania

  • 80% of households own at least one mobile phone and the majority of Tanzanians are now using mobile money services (up from 27% in 2009). Three cyber security laws will soon be introduced. 3G competition is increasing with Viettel granted a 3G license for service in 2015. The Internet.org app launched later in the year.

Togo

  • The government launched a tender for a 3rd mobile operator (will be announced in 2015). The nation wants to better promote e-commerce. An e-waste 3D printer continued to capture international attention.

Tunisia

  • A cyber crime draft law threatens internet rights progress. A tech sector is emerging but is hampered by old policies.

Uganda

  • Telecoms were warned for low quality of service (they also have the lowest ARPU in East Africa). A series of new laws could threaten citizens’ rights online. Uganda Communications Commission is aiming to better regulate social media usage (and online safety in general). The government hopes to reduce wholesale internet costs 80% by 2020. Kampala’s tech ecosystem continues to evolve with a handful of tech hubs.

Western Sahara

  • Political strife continues to inhibit telecoms progress.

Zambia

  • MTN and Zamtel launched commercial 4G LTE. A draft constitution (which had online media freedom clauses) was rejected by the president. The government continued to grapple with online hate speech, namely in the form of Zambia Watchdog. Facebook-backed Internet.org started partnering with telcos and content providers to improve internet access.

Zimbabwe

  • The nation’s broadband infrastructure is shifting its focus from supply to consumption. Tech hubs continued to push for economic growth and there was hefty online discussion around e-commerce opportunities during the second half of the year. PayPal is now available. Econet Wireless continued with LTE launches. The folks at Techzim have done an excellent job recapping their country’s year in tech.