Reliable and Affordable Internet Access Fuel Economic Growth

By Irene Gaitirira
Published July 6, 2021

Internet Society promotes the use of the InternetA just-published report says reliable and affordable Internet access could fuel economic growth across Africa.

Internet Society, a global non-profit organisation founded in 1992 to promote the development and use of the Internet,in a report titled Moving towards an interconnected Africa: the 80/20 Initiative, examines the Internet ecosystem in Africa, outlining the state of Internet interconnection across the continent and the critical role Internet Exchange Points (IXP) play in improving access and lowering costs.

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Quoting United Nations Economic Commission for Africa figures, Internet Society says fewer than 1 in 5 households have Internet access despite the fact that Internet economy has the potential to contribute up to US$180 billion to Africa’s gross domestic product (GDP) by 2025.

Defining IXP as technical infrastructure that brings together multiple networks–Internet service providers, mobile operators, enterprise networks, research and education networks, e-Government services, content delivery networks (CDNs)–to connect and exchange Internet traffic, Internet Society contends that ‘IXPs enable the local exchange of Internet traffic instead of using expensive international transit routes’. This, it says, ‘not only makes Internet access much more affordable but also improves the quality of access by providing more direct network connections. Access speeds for content can be up to 10 times faster with an IXP because traffic is routed locally versus international transit routes’.

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According to Moving towards an interconnected Africa: the 80/20 Initiative, the number of African IXPs has increased by 58 percent over the past eight years,
from 19 in 2012 to 46 in 2020. In addition:

  • More than half of the countries in Africa have an IXP; six countries have more than one
  • The most developed Internet ecosystem is in South Africa, followed by Kenya and Nigeria . These countries have the most interconnected networks and have succeeded in exchanging 70%-80% of their traffic locally
  • IXPs provide significant savings by localising Internet traffic. The report shows that a network can save up to US$240,000 per year by connecting to a local IXP
  • The presence of content delivery networks has increased significantly and the amount of locally available content and demand for content hosting has increased.

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The new report expands on a 2020 analysis of IXP growth in Kenya and Nigeria and provides an overview of the evolution of Internet interconnection on the continent by examining a country in each of the six subregions: Angola (Southern Africa), Burkina Faso (Western Africa), Democratic Republic of Congo (Central Africa), Egypt (Northern Africa), Mauritius (Indian Ocean), and Rwanda (Eastern Africa).

“Thanks to the continued work with partners over the years, we have many more sustainable IXPs that exchange a considerable amount of Internet traffic in Africa. But there’s still work to do to ensure that more Internet traffic is exchanged on the continent,” says Dawit Bekele, Africa Regional Vice President for Internet Society.“A key success factor for IXPs is that governments understand the value that Internet infrastructure provides, which encourages the adoption of policies and regulations that enable Internet ecosystems to thrive.”

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