Connecting Africa is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 3099067.

Digital Inclusion

Africa Still Trailing in Internet Access, Finds ITU Report

Article Image
With a 2017 Internet User Penetration level below 22%, Africa is still trailing the rest of the world in terms of digital connectivity, according to a new ITU State of Broadband report.

While 48% of the world's 7.6 billion population is set to be connected to the Internet by the end of this year, just 21.8% of Africa's 1 billion-plus people will be connected, according to the report, The State of Broadband 2017: Broadband Catalyzing Sustainable Development.

By comparison, the Asia-Pacific region will hit 43.9% Internet penetration and the Arab states 43.7%. Europe leads the way with 79.6%, ahead of the CIS, with 67.7% and the Americas at 65.9%.

Importantly, the ITU report notes that while connectivity numbers are "trending in the right direction, it is important to differentiate between mere Internet access and the ability for consumers to fully maximize their experience online." The authors point to a recent study by Facebook of 75 countries that showed how, on average, 94% of the population of these 75 countries has access to a 2G mobile signal from their homes.

However, the report notes: "In practice, it is virtually impossible to experience the Internet effectively via a 2G connection. Only 76% of the world's population lives within access of a 3G signal, and only 43% of people have access to a 4G connection. Thus, the majority of the connected world remains under-connected, most of them in developing countries. Unless people have the opportunity to migrate from 2G to 3G to 4G and beyond, they remain under-connected."

And while there is investment in 3G and 4G radio access networks, it's an undeniably tough task to deliver such connectivity, as Connecting Africa has noted. (See The Economics of Change in African Infrastructure Development.)


Learn more about 4G developments in Africa during our free-to-attend webinar, The State of African 4G, which takes place on Tuesday, October 3, 2017 at 2:00 p.m. Cape Town/1:00 p.m. London/8:00 a.m. New York. Register here.

In underserved areas, well understood challenges persist, including "lack of infrastructure, affordability, lack of skills or lack of relevant local content," according to the report. "On the supply side, ineffective policies, outdated regulatory frameworks and reduced incentives to invest also play their part. The business models required to achieve universal service goals are also evolving. While industry may be focusing its efforts on potentially more lucrative, easy-to-serve urban areas, there is a need to stimulate deployment across the whole territory, including rural and remote areas."

Source: ITU
Source: ITU

In a statement that followed the release of the report, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres urged the United Nations Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development to help bridge the digital divide.

Guterres stated: "The membership of this Commission offers an encouraging example of just the kind of multi-stakeholder partnerships we need to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Technology is crucial in empowering people to participate in our digital future, and in helping governments to better serve people. But we must also address significant concerns such as cybersecurity, human rights, privacy, as well as the digital divide, including its gender dimensions. Broadband is a remarkable tool; now we must do more to ensure that all enjoy its benefits. Developing countries face the very real risk of being left behind. I look to this Commission to help ensure that broadband charts a course that includes all humankind, enhances human dignity and serves the global good."

But it's not like progress isn't being made. The report notes that during the past year, "there has been impressive growth in the number of new Internet Exchange Points (IXPs), an important form of support infrastructure that can potentially help reduce latency and cut transit costs. The growth of IXPs in Africa over the last year is remarkable. Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Rep. of Congo, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Sudan and Zimbabwe all established an IXP over the last twelve months to mid-2017."

— Ray Le Maistre, International Group Editor, Light Reading for Connecting Africa.

Innovation hub

Story

SA's smart city finalists win big for innovation

South Africa's City of Johannesburg's Smart City Office has awarded four innovators R500,000 (US$31,434) for their innovative solutions.

Story

Hot startup of the month: Data science marketplace Zindi

This month's hot startup is social enterprise Zindi, which is a professional network for data science in Africa.

More Innovation hub

Latest video

More videos

Guest Perspectives

Story

Omdia View: May 2022

By Omdia Analysts

SpaceX-owned Starlink's plans to launch a satellite broadband service in Africa was a major highlight in May 2022, says Omdia's analysts.

Story

Omdia View: April 2022

By Omdia Analysts

This month's Omdia View highlights indicate a shift to digital transformation and operational consolidation to maximize return on investments.

More Guest Perspectives

Partner perspectives

All Partner Perspectives

Flash poll

All polls

Archived webinars

Africa Green ICT: Lighting Up a Sustainable Continent

The ICT industry is the leading industry in the commitment to carbon neutrality, whose focus has shifted from setting ambitious targets to taking initiatives. The push for zero-carbon and for green energy development, it isn't just about CSR – it's also good for sustainable business.

The path to sustainable development requires green energy. Governments are looking at potential policy approaches to make green energy more widely available and affordable. Without sustainable energy, there will be no digital transformation and no chance of making Africa more economically competitive in the post-pandemic era.

Africa Green ICT Webinar 2022 will bring together ICT industry leaders and senior industrial analysts to provide insight, best practices and key learnings on how to achieve zero-carbon targets and practice green development in Africa.

More Webinars

Sponsored video

More videos

AfricaCom perspectives

Story

Digital inclusion as a catalyst for economic empowerment: Mastercard's Imelda Ngunzu

Mastercard's Imelda Ngunzu talks to Connecting Africa about how digital payment solutions and mobile money are transforming the lives of small business owners, women and marginalized groups in East Africa.

Story

Accelerating women in STEM: In conversation with GirlCode's Tinyiko Simbine

GirlCode co-founder and CFO Tinyiko Simbine talks about why it's important to help girls and young women excel in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.

Story

How Poa Internet is unlocking meaningful connectivity in East Africa

Poa Internet's CEO Andy Halsall shares his views on what it takes to develop last-mile connectivity and get Africans online in a meaningful way.

More AfricaCom perspectives

Like us on Facebook

Newsletter Sign Up


Sign Up