African Internet statistics from eight years ago show how far most countries have come
A few months ago, we stumbled across NationMaster.com, a defunct website that once aggregated key internet statistics from the most reputable sources for nearly every country in the world. The data may be current as of 2005, but the internet statistics give a sense of how African internet access and cost have improved in the past decade. There are still major obstacles in building infrastructure, reducing access costs, and encouraging internet use, but it is nonetheless amazing to see most African nations catching up to the rest of the world in terms of international bandwidth and internet costs.
Telecoms monopolies were almost the norm eight years ago in Africa, but now only exist in a handful of nations:
- As of 2005, 25 African nations/territories had 1 ISP (now that number stands at 6: Comoros, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sao Tome & Principe, Swaziland)
International bandwidth still varies greatly especially between North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa and between coastal and inland areas. Still, the discrepancy was even more noticeable 8-12 years ago than it is now:
- As of 2004-2005, Morocco led Africa in international bandwidth (#40 globally with 7.1 Gbps), followed by Egypt (#48 globally with 3.65 Gbps) and South Africa (#64 globally with 882 Mbps)
- As of 2001, Guinea-Bissau only had 0.06 Mbps of international bandwidth for the entire country; Liberia had 0.26 Mbps as of 2002; Sierra Leone had double this amount
- As of 2004-2005, Congo-Brazzaville and Central African Republic had less than 2 Mbps of international bandwidth for the entire nation
Fixed line internet is still hard to come by in most parts of Africa. But at least there is a growing prevalence of reliable mobile data service. A decade ago internet connections were usually via congested ADSL or high-latency satellite.
- Liberia had an estimated 1,000 internet users in 2002
- Equatorial Guinea, Djibouti, Sierra Leone, and Central African Republic each had fewer than 15,000 internet users as of 2006-2007
- Nigeria only had 10 million internet users in 2007; Kenya had 3 million. Currently, per regulatory reports, Nigeria has more than 35 million internet users and Kenya has more than 16 million.
A price basket for internet paints a picture of how wildly expensive it was in 2005 to access the internet 20 hours a month on the cheapest available tariff. Still, having an extremely high internet access cost in 2005 does not mean costs are as high. For example, prices in East Africa have rapidly dropped from $100 per month for 20 hours of internet to roughly $15-20 per month for 3G in many markets.
- Eight of the ten highest price baskets could be found in Sub-Saharan Africa
- Central African Republic was the most expensive in the world at $147.80 per month
- Niger was the second most expensive: $101.82 / month
- Uganda (4th most expensive): $99.59 / month
- Egypt had among the cheapest rates in the world at $4.97 per month
- Sierra Leone also had a relatively cheap rate (155th most expensive at $10.56 per month)
- The Gambia, Mauritius, Tunisia, and Algeria had price baskets under $20 per month
Breaking down international bandwidth per GDP in 2002, it is clear that certain governments had other priorities than developing competitive telecoms markets:
- Angola and Libya, both nations with strong GDP per capita due to oil revenue, did not have the international internet bandwidth to match
- Senegal fared relatively well, landing in 39th place globally
Stats for broadband subscribers seem low, suggesting a lack of national data (fewer than 1,000 in each of 15 African nations as of 2005).
Sources: World Development Indicators database; IANA: Internet Assigned Numbers Authority; CIA World Factbook, December 2003