Africa scores poorest in Internet penetration

Published on 06/02/2009

By James Anyanzwa

Africa has the lowest Internet penetration globally, a new report says.

The report dubbed ‘Africa Connected: Telecommunication growth story’ indicates that Internet penetration levels in the continent stands at a paltry 5.4 per cent, with only 12 countries having a penetration rate of more than one per cent.

Efforts to address this issue, such as the Nepad eSchool initiative of providing computers in schools have, however, not been very successful mainly due to the high cost of bandwidth within almost every African country, says report.

The auditing firm Ernst&Young; commissioned the study, which was based on in-depth questionnaire-led interviews in the third quarter of last year.

It involved 28 senior figures and decision-makers active in the African telecommunications industry.

The report ascertained that the high cost of bandwidth is as a result of reluctance of some countries to deregulate their international gateways and reliance of many on satellite links for international connectivity.

“Most countries in the eastern region of the continent are completely dependent on satellite as a backhaul mechanism as is almost every landlocked country,” says report.

“It is this dependence that has stimulated the participation of operators and governments in the laying of submarine cable systems.”

The report notes that 70 per cent of Sub-Saharan Africa still lives in rural areas, thus posing a great challenge to operators intending to reach remote pockets of potential consumers in a cost-effective way.

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