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Africa's Internet use doubles in decade despite high costs (report)

Tuesday, 27 February 2024 19:17
Africa's Internet use doubles in decade despite high costs (report)

(Ecofin Agency) - Recent data analysis from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) reveals that internet connectivity is on the rise across Africa, sparking hope and opening doors for digital inclusion.

According to the ITU's "Facts and Figures 2023" report, 37% of the African population had internet access in 2023. Although this represents a slight decrease from the previous year's 40%, analysis by the Ecofin Agency indicates a consistent upward trend over the last decade.


From a modest 16% in 2013, internet usage in Africa climbed to 25% by 2016 and continued to grow steadily to reach 40% in 2022. Before the 2023 dip, the only other decline over the past ten years occurred in 2017, when usage dropped by 3.3 percentage points.

Several factors contributed to the surge between 2020 and 2022, notably the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced many activities online, thus increasing internet usage.


While the ITU does not provide specific reasons for the decrease between 2022 and 2023, several factors could be responsible, including the resumption of physical activities, internet blackouts in certain countries, and access issues elsewhere. In August 2023, disruptions in internet service in some African countries were attributed to the cutting of the WACS and SAT-3 submarine cables.

Bridging the gap to global averages

The 2023 data from the ITU indicates significant room for progress in Africa. While the continent reported a 37% internet usage rate, the global average stood at 67%. Meanwhile, Europe, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), and the Americas recorded internet usage rates between 87 and 91%. The Arab States and the Asia-Pacific region are closer to the global average, with rates of 69 and 66%, respectively.

Enhanced connectivity could significantly boost various economic sectors. An increase in the African online population could revolutionize sectors such as e-commerce. According to TechCabal Insights' "Future of Commerce: Outlook for 2024" report, the e-commerce sector is booming, with total revenue reaching $32.49 billion in 2022 and 387.5 million African online shoppers.

Despite having 25 submarine cables and 1.2 million km of terrestrial fiber, Africa's optical fiber footprint remains limited. Many countries still lack the necessary high-speed telecommunications infrastructure. Furthermore, Africa has the highest fixed broadband access rates in the world, costing an average of 14.8% of Gross National Income (GNI), far above the ITU's recommended 2%.

To enhance internet access in Africa, the Internet Society has made several recommendations. These include reforming the telecom market to encourage the emergence of competing access networks and expanding national basic infrastructures beyond major submarine cable landing points and primary population centers to additional population hubs.



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ECOFIN AGENCY offers a selection of articles translated from AGENCE ECOFIN. Founded in 2011, Agence Ecofin is a leader in Francophone Pan-African economic news, particularly in West and Central Africa. The agency publishes daily news on nine African economic sectors: Public Management, Finance, ICT, Agribusiness, Energy, Mining, Transport & Logistics, Communication, and Training.

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