With the massive digital transformation, investments are increasing to provide African populations with good quality connectivity. The last 3 years have seen the commissioning of numerous new telecoms infrastructures.
Since 2020, the demand for broadband internet services has been increasing in Africa. This need is currently having a direct impact on transmission capacity on the continent which has recorded the fastest compound annual growth rate (CAGR) in the world over the last 3 years, according to the report ”The State of Broadband 2023 Digital Connectivity A Transformative Opportunity” from the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Broadband Commission.
Around ten new submarine optical fiber systems have in fact been put into service on the continent between 2020 and 2023, increasing the total available bandwidth by more than 70 terabits. In addition to cables such as Orval, DARE1, South Atlantic Inter Link, EllaLink, Maroc Telecom West Africa, METISS, 2Africa, Equiano, etc., thousands of km of terrestrial optical fiber have been deployed by various suppliers such as Liquid Telecom. We also note the new data capabilities of national and international satellite communication systems such as YahClick, Starlink, Eutelsat, OneWeb, Intelsat, etc.
- Broadband Commission
Data from technology company Ericsson on sub-Saharan Africa, home to more than half of the continent’s population, quantifies the need for connectivity that supports the continent’s increased transmission capacity. In its June 2020 Mobility Report, the Swedish company indicates that monthly internet traffic per smartphone in the region was 1.9 gigabits in 2019. In June 2022, this monthly traffic increased to 4.7 GB. Ericsson estimates that this growth in requested volume will reach 19 GB in 2028, only for individual consumers.
However, this rapid annual growth rate in high-speed transmission capacity does not always benefit all African populations, although 83% of them are covered by a telecoms network (49% by 4G and nearly 30% by 3G). ) according to the ITU. The Internet access rate is only 33% (87% in Europe, 81% in the United States, 61% in Asia-Pacific), despite significant potential for high-speed connectivity. Several obstacles still hinder the full exploitation of the various investments made in this area by States and service providers.
In particular, the high cost of entry-level broadband services. They are still well above the threshold set by the Broadband Commission: less than 2% of monthly gross national income per capita.
- International Telecommunications Union
Next comes the cost of access to phones suitable for mobile Internet. In his study ”To Luxury To Lifeline. Reducing the cost of mobile devices to reach universal internet access” covering 70 countries around the world, Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) has drawn up a heat map revealing the markets where the price of a smartphone is the most accessible. Access to computers is also expensive. Only 1% of the African population is connected to fixed broadband at home (35% in Europe, 23% in the USA, 17% in Asia-Pacific) out of nearly 2.5 million km of optical fiber already deployed on the continent. .
- Alliance for Affordable Internet
According to the ITU, the Internet is currently a catalyst for economic and social development whose importance no longer needs to be demonstrated. The UN agency says that improving the penetration rate of mobile and fixed broadband by 10% corresponds to growth of 2.5% and 1.5% of GDP respectively.