Internet access is still expensive and beyond the reach of many Africans, says the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) in its 2019 Affordability Index report released this week.
According to the report, the cost of accessing 1GB of data in the region costs about 7.12% of the average monthly salary.
“Across Africa, the average cost for just 1GB data is 7.12% of the average monthly salary. In some countries, 1GB costs as much as 20% of the average salary – too expensive for all but the wealthiest few,” says the report.
Internet access is considered key in unlocking economic possibilities, entrepreneurship and financial inclusion in a continent that is largely rural and poorly covered by traditional banks.
Other experts say government taxation of data access and airtime top ups is also making internet access beyond the reach of many. A4AI says as much as 50% of the world population still do not have access to the internet because of high costs.
However, policy changes in some African countries and infrastructure investments have led to improvements in internet affordability and access. Kenya has been a front-runner in this, after the government eliminated taxes on handset purchases in the country.
“New National broadband plans in Cameroon and Mali led both to the top of the list of most improved countries,” says the report.
The index ranks Cameroon in 44th place after it moved six places, while Mali is ranked in 40th position after jumping five places. The two African countries are the top two upward movers on the rankings.
Benin (29th), Rwanda (31), Tanzania (32) and Uganda in 36th position are ranked in the top 10 for low income countries.
Market growth for mobile internet also helped move some countries up the Index, with large expansions of 3G coverage in Mali, Sierra Leone, and Tanzania as well as “overall internet use in Namibia” emerging as “influential factors in this year’s assessment” of internet affordability across the continent.
“Markets with companies that hold combined private and public capital can create dynamics that undermine fair competition. This is demonstrated in Namibia and Angola, where government investment in private operators has created a tension between the public good of a market with affordable prices and the governments’ desire for larger returns on investment,” the report continues.