Harare – Africa has one of the world’s lowest fixed broadband subscriptions rates, notes a report by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).
Titled “Digital Trends in Africa 2021”, the ITU report says: “Given the absence of legacy infrastructure and the relatively lower costs of deploying wireless broadband infrastructure, ITU estimated a fixed broadband subscription rate of 0.5 per 100 inhabitants for Africa in 2020, a figure that is well below the global average of 15.2 subscriptions per 100 inhabitants.
“Yet fixed broadband subscriptions per 100 inhabitants have increased across most countries for which data were available. Within the region, two-thirds of the countries slightly increased their fixed broadband subscription rates in the period 2018- 2019, just under one-third of countries show declining subscription rates for the same period.”
Notably, SADC member states Mauritius and the Seychelles have fixed broadband subscription rates per 100 inhabitants well above the world average.
Further, mobile cellular subscriptions in excess of 100 per 100 inhabitants were noted in 12 out of 44 countries; namely the Seychelles, South Africa, Botswana, Mauritius, Côte d’Ivoire, Gambia, Gabon, Ghana, Mali, Namibia, Senegal, Cabo Verde and Kenya. Twenty countries have subscription rates per 100 inhabitants below the African average of 82.3, while 12 others have less than 50 subscriptions per 100 inhabitants.
“In most countries, mobile cellular subscription rates have increased over the time-period 2015-2019,” highlighted the report.
Africa’s bandwidth capacity has more than doubled over the past four years from five terabytes per second in 2017 to 11Tbit/s in 2020, it represents just 1.5 percent of global bandwidth. At the individual user level, there were 30.8kbit/s per Internet user in Africa in 2019, compared with 131.3 kbit/s per Internet user globally.
“At the country level, international bandwidth per Internet user has increased across almost all the countries in the region, where data was available. Kenya had the highest international bandwidth per Internet user, with 566.41 kbit/s and a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 52 percent for the period 2015- 2019.
“Just over one-third of the countries had CAGRs in excess of 40 percent, including Sao Tome and Principe, Benin, Botswana, Burundi, Ghana, Togo, Zambia, Namibia, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Angola, Mozambique, Mali, the Central African Republic and Liberia. Over the same period, just under one-third of countries grew their international bandwidth per Internet user between 20 and 40 percent.
“Few countries, including South Sudan, Ethiopia, Niger, Senegal, Eswatini, South Africa, Gabon, Sierra Leone, Gambia and Cabo Verde experienced small or no growth (CAGR below 10 percent or negative),” stated the ITU report.
Push for rural ICT access
Windhoek – Southern African ICT and transport ministers are angling for a holistic plan to improve information communication technology infrastructure in rural and marginalised areas.
The ministers also want sustainable funding models for broadband access to drive development across the region.
At a roundtable virtual discussion hosted by South African Minister of Communication and Digital Technologies Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, in partnership with the SADC Secretariat, Namibian Information and Communication Technology Deputy Minister Emma Theofelus said improving infrastructure would go a long way towards empowering residents of rural areas.
At the meeting were the Secretary-General of the African Continental Free Trade Area Secretariat Mr Wamkele Mene and Mr John Omo, the Secretary-General of the African Telecommunications Union; as well as representatives of the governments of Botswana and Zimbabwe, among others.
Deputy Minister Theofelus said, “We must find a holistic way that will develop both telecommunications infrastructure and road networks that our people in the marginalised areas can access and find a way of keeping these in line with innovation as a way of improving communication in marginalised communities mostly in the rural areas.”
Minister Ndabeni-Abrahams called for more support for SMEs in the ICT sector; while Zimbabwean Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said infrastructure should not be a preserve of urban dwellers.
Mr Omo said funding remained Africa’s biggest hurdle in proliferating ICTs, and he urged start-ups to form partnerships and for governments to implement enabling legislation for growth of the sector.