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Africa’s Digital Divide is Narrowing but the Cost of Internet is Struggling to Come Down

Only 29% of Africans have access to the internet compared to 45% of people in Asia, according to the latest report published by the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) in December 2020. Despite the installation of submarine cables to connect the continent, the price of a gig of mobile internet data remains very high on average. In Equatorial Guinea, for example, it costs $35 to get a gig of mobile data – the most expensive rate in the world – according to figures from the A4AI. Yet the country is connected to three undersea fibre-optic cables. There are several reasons for this pricing. Due to its small customer base, 1.3 million inhabitants in 2019, the cost of installing infrastructure is more difficult to recover. There is also a lack of competition which inevitably increases prices. According to the UN, internet access is considered affordable when the cost of a gig is less than 2% of gross monthly income. However, on the African continent, data prices are 5.7% of gross monthly income compared to 2.7% in South America and 1.6% in Asia-Pacific. In fact, “only 14 of the 48 African countries included in the ranking have affordable internet access,” the report says. For instance, in the CAR, a gigabyte represents 24.4% of monthly income, according to A4AI. In the DRC, it represents 20.6% of income while in Chad and Togo it takes up 15%. In contrast however, data prices are equivalent to only 0.5% of monthly income in Mauritius, 0.8% in Algeria, 1.3% in Gabon and 1.4% in Ghana.