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Fresh approach to broadband pays off for Africa

By , Sub Saharan Africa Business, Tech, News and Development Journalist
Africa , 04 Dec 2020

Many countries across Africa have made policy advances to reduce the cost of broadband access, boosted by improved spectrum management and investment into infrastructure, says a new report by the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI).

The advances in lowering broadband costs by African countries such as Malawi, Rwanda, Botswana and Morocco is significant, especially in light of this year’s findings by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) which show that nearly half the global population aged 10 years and over has never used the internet.

The ITU adds that a “disproportionate number are women, particularly in Africa and South Asia”.

The reasons for this vary from high costs of accessing broadband, infrastructure gaps, and literacy deficiencies to limited digital exposure.

“Africa sees the biggest (broadband) policy advances,” says the A4AI in its Affordability Report 2020released this week. It uses the Affordability Drivers Index to rank countries’ infrastructure deployment, policy frameworks that encourage investment in broadband and broadband adoption rates.

Adds the report: “While Africa remains the region with the lowest average score, this year it saw the fastest improvement with (regional) countries improving planning, better spectrum management and supporting programmes to narrow the digital gender gap.”

Morocco, with a score of 71 out of 100, is the only African country in the list of top ten countries that have the highest broadband affordability scores. Senegal, Benin, Uganda, Rwanda as well as Tanzania and Mali are ranked among in the top 10 highest scoring countries among the least developed countries ranked.

Rwanda is one such African country “which has effective national broadband planning” which has “seen 1GB data fall to less than a fifth of its 2015 price, from 20.2% to 3.39% of average monthly” income.

The east African country, touted as progressive in digital development, also “made faster progress than its East African neighbours which have less robust broadband” planning.

Malawi, one of the poorest countries in the region has also made strides in digital access and policy formulation to lower affordability of broadband. 1GB of broadband in Malawi now costs between 6% and 16% of a person’s total income.

Out of a possible 100, Botswana scored 68.7, Mauritius 68.6, Nigeria 66.1, Ghana 63.4 and Tunisia 61.9. Other high ranked African countries include Senegal, South Africa, Kenya, Ivory Coast and Egypt which all scored above 50.

“Countries across Africa (rose) an average of 7% in the ADI this year. Malawi has one of the largest year-on-year score increases this year, of over six points, a reflection of its work around the consultation and adoption of its 2019-2023 national broadband strategy,” the report adds.

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