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Africa’s internet still VERY far behind

Africa continentYou don’t hear much about the state of the internet in Africa, so we here at Pingdom decided to find out how Africa’s internet is doing. We looked at data traffic and internet penetration (how many in the population have internet access), and came up with some very interesting numbers.

Bandwidth (traffic)

Internet exchange points (IXPs) are locations where internet service providers (ISPs) interconnect so that they can send traffic directly to each other instead of having this traffic routed via other providers (and potentially very long distances), cutting traffic costs and increasing performance in the process.

The IXP throughput can give us a good idea of how much internet traffic is being handled in Africa.

IXP traffic in Africa
Country Name City Peering ISPs Started Traffic
Tanzania AIXP Arusha 14 2007 200 Kbps
Angola ANG-IXP 5 2006 Unknown
Botswana BINX Gabarone 8 2005 Unknown
Egypt CRIX Cairo 3 2005 12 Mbps
South Africa GINX Grahamstown 6 2005 3 Mbps
Ghana GIX Accra 24 2005 Unknown
Nigeria IBIX Ibadan 2 2003 200 Kbps
South Africa JINX Johannesburg 24 1996 450 Mbps
Congo-Kinshasa KINIX Kinshasa 12 2002 1 Mbps
Kenya KIXP Nairobi 23 2002 14 Mbps
Mauritius MIXP Port Louis 4 2005 Unknown
Mozambique MozIX Maputo 11 2002 5 Mbps
Nigeria NIXP Lagos 15 2007 Unknown
Rwanda RINEX Kigali 2 2004 400 Kbps
Swaziland SZIX Mbabane 3 2004 128 Kbps
Tanzania TIX Dar es Salaam 14 2003 2 Mbps
Uganda UIXP Kampala 9 2003 2.3 Mbps

As you can see, the IXPs in Africa count their throughput in megabit per second, and sometimes even kilobit per second. The rest of the world tends to be concerned with gigabit per second.

To put the above numbers in perspective, here are the traffic numbers for some large IXPs outside Africa. We will let the data speak for itself here:

IXP traffic for five IXPs outside Africa
Country Name City Peering ISPs Started Traffic
Netherlands AMS-IX Amsterdam 287 1997 413 Gbps
Germany DE-CIX Frankfurt 229 1995 380 Gbps
United Kingdom LINX London 221 1994 207 Gbps
Japan JPNAP Tokyo 88 2001 183 Gbps
Sweden Netnod Stockholm 53 1997 103 Gbps

Internet penetration

The average internet penetration among the population in Africa is 4.7%. The world total is 20% (Europe and North America have 43.4% and 71.1% respectively). But even if the internet penetration is much lower in Africa compared to the rest of the world, it is nowhere near the order of magnitude that is being indicated by the IXP traffic.

Even though 4.7% may sound like a really small number, it is the equivalent of over 44 million people with internet access.

Broadband penetration, however, is much lower at a mere 0.1%. There were only 1,097,200 broadband subscribers in the whole of Africa as of September 2007. Most likely broadband connections are restricted mostly to major companies, schools and authorities.

Conclusion

Pingdom is based in Sweden, so we are spoiled with very good internet connections, and we take them for granted (as do many of you readers as well, we are sure).

Take a close look at the numbers in this post, because they really show how far behind Africa is on the internet. Hopefully significant progress will be made since the internet has become a vital part of the global economy. Africa will fall behind even more in the long run if they are not able to participate on the internet to the extent and capacity of the rest of the world.

Data sources:

We merged data from two different sources to get a relatively comprehensive list of African IXPs and their traffic: Association of African Internet Service Provider Associations, and the IXP directory at Packet Clearing House. We took the highest reported traffic values we could find when we merged the data.

The non-African IXP data is from Wikipedia.

The internet penetration data is from Internet World Stats.



9 comments
sokari
sokari

I too found this article disappointing. Personally I feel given the infrastructure and costs of getting online as well as the average earnings across the continent - 44 million is a huge number. The article is negative and should have focused on the growth over the past 5, 3, 1, the innovations taking place across the continent, the active blogosphere and online media, shopping and other Web 2.0 sites.

James
James

Well i will say most people will agree with you.

Nathan
Nathan

First they need to sort out the unreliable electricity supply. Not lekker having to wait for 6 hours before you can use your pc again due to power sharing :(

Julien
Julien

Great article. But you just don't look at french-speaking countries : Morocco, Senegal, Benin, Togo, Côte d'Ivoire...

Royal Pingdom
Royal Pingdom

Andrew, Thank you very much for contributing with such an informative comment. It's good to see that much is being done. Seacom seems like a great initiative.

Andrew Alston
Andrew Alston

I read this article with a little disappointment, as I think it leaves out a large name of relevant facts about what is happening to change the situation. As an African involved in this industry, I believe that when talking about the negative, it is imperative that we also look to the future and look at what is changing. I figure its only fair that I share some of the things that are happening on the continent, to provide the other side of the story! First of all, Seacom will arrive in June 2009, that will be the first reasonably priced international bandwidth, and will significantly help the international situation. TENET (The academic network in South Africa) has actually purchased an STM-64 (10gigabit) on this cable on a life of cable IRU, at a cost that was approximately 400 times cheaper than the current price per paid, and this is a signed done deal. Seacom also lands in multiple countries up the East Coast, so this is the first East Coast cable going all the way down the side of the continent, and should provide significant cost savings there. If I am correct, with regards to telecommunications industries, Kenya's industry is fast becoming heavily deregulated, and the Ugandan industry is also far less regulated than it used to be. We are also seeing large scale fiber build outs in Mozambique and Rwanda (I am looking at this from the academic network perspectives, since that is the industry I am involved in) South Africa is currently also in the process of deploying the SANReN network, which is going to be once fully built, one of the fastest academic networks on the planet (almost 500gigabit in the core), the hardware for this has already been purchased and the University of Witwatersrand and the University of Johannesburg in South Africa already have 10gigabit connections back to the primary core nodes of the academic network. With regards to the internet exchange traffic, its difficult to speak to the other African countries exchanges, but with regards to JINX in Johannesburg, I can confirm that TENET has a gigabit connection in there, and will upgrade it to 10gigabit as soon as the exchange actually has the interfaces available. One of the reasons for the low amounts of traffic on the exchange however is due to equivalent line charge pricing models of the exchange, and as a result there is a large amount of private peering going on which is largely hidden from public view. (TENET peers with Internet Solutions for example at 10gigabit in Cape Town and 10gigabit in Johannesburg). It is kind of sad to note however that the South African incumbent player (Telkom/SAIX) still refuses to join the exchange. Then we also need to make mention of Neotel, the second network operator in South Africa, who is making headway, the prices are still high, but they are dropping as competition becomes a reality. The point is, things are changing, day by day things get better. Lets look at the positives as well, and focus on what we can do to enforce those, rather than looking at the negatives and enforcing those!

Suhayl
Suhayl

IXP traffic analysis is not a fair representation of the Internet penetration per country. The traffic at IXP’s is local only and relates to mainly email and very little http since local content is minimal. The research does not pick up on International peering by independent ISPs or gateways operators who channel most of the Internet traffic to and from the countries. Suhayl

Ali Damji
Ali Damji

Very interesting Article. I think the main reason that the internet in Africa is so far behind is because bandwidth is expensive and mostly all websites are hosted abroad thus making the IXP's not of much use. Once fibre is available (i.e. SEACOM, EASSY, TEAMS), Costs will go down and usage will increase.

lokey
lokey

Does this study include net access through cell phone data plans?