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IXP growth bodes well for Africa’s connected future

The number of IXPs in Africa has grown exponentially, increasing from 19 in 2012 to 46 in 2020. This is good news for the continent’s interconnectedness claims CEO of Teraco, Jan Hnizdo.

Internet exchange NAPAfrica keeps its infrastructure at Teraco’s vendor-neutral colocation datacentres located in Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg.

In 2022 the exchange will mark a decade of operation and contribution to Africa’s internet access and interconnectedness.

It claims to be the continent’s biggest IXP and seventh largest globally by number of member connections.

Most recently, NAPAfrica announced that it had reached a peering throughput milestone of more than 2Tbps, with over 500 organisations now actively peering.

“The growth of NAPAfrica is a great African success story,” says Hnizdo. “What started as an idea to attract global content to African shores whilst also improving latency, has emerged as a leading interconnection hub that is shaping the growth and access of the internet across the African continent.”

“NAPAfrica has made it possible for peering members to access global content within African borders and keep local traffic local – where previously, much of our traffic was routed via Europe. More recently, we have seen many new enterprises join the NAPAfrica peering community to improve resilience, lower costs and reduce the latency of accessing content and applications such as Microsoft O365, AWS Cloudfront, Akamai and Cloudflare.”

According to Teraco and NAPAfrica, the continued investment into critical telecommunications infrastructure in Africa, especially in the local cloud regions like Microsoft Azure and AWS, subsea cables and broadband fibre, have also contributed enormously to the growth of NAPAfrica, as the continent’s demand for content and cloud services grows apace.

Hnizdo adds, “A 140% increase in the number of African exchanges is good news for the continent and its interconnectedness. We are proud of the innovative role NAPAfrica has played in shaping Africa’s Internet access and usage.”

ITWeb reported that according to an Internet Society report, Moving Toward an Interconnected Africa: The 80/20 Initiative, growth indicates a 58% increase over the past few years.

The report shows the significant gains made in advancing IXPs on the continent between 2012 and 2020.

It states there is a boom in this type of internet infrastructure development on the continent, with more than half of African countries with an IXP. Six countries – Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and Tanzania – have more than one IXP.

Deloitte’s Value of Connectivity report says that Internet connectivity has already hugely benefitted developed economies, providing far-reaching economic and social advantages. Extending these opportunities to developing economies in Africa is critical in making the transition from a resource-based to a knowledge-based economy.

It is in the creation of a knowledge-based economy where Africa, and NAPAfrica, has seen the immense growth of cloud providers that are launching their services across the continent as the need for cloud-based technology increases. Coupled with this has been the extensive investment and uptake in fibre and subsea cable infrastructure, allowing users access to higher capacities than ever before.

Michele McCann, Head of Interconnection & Peering, Teraco, says that people have now discovered the real power of the Internet, be it working from home or for pure entertainment: “We are seeing NAPAfrica traffic grow daily as enterprises start investing in larger bandwidth options as they address work from home needs. From a content perspective, the UEFA EURO 2020 added over 400Gbps of additional traffic to the exchange.”

Increased demand on networks, to service remote users, has driven the adoption of key cloud and security applications such as Microsoft O365 services, AWS, Cloudflare and Zscaler.

McCann says that similar traffic growth numbers are occurring elsewhere on the continent within countries such as Angola, Botswana, DRC, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mauritius, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Réunion, Seychelles, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

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