Internet Society: advancing digital economies in Africa

By Georgia Wilson
In a recent report published by Internet Society highlights key steps for Africa countries to develop a more resilient digital economy...

Titled “Anchoring the African Internet Ecosystem: Lessons from Kenya and Nigeria’s Internet Exchange Points Growth,” the recent report released by Internet Society the organisation highlights how better connectivity within the region could present opportunities for countries to develop a more resilient digital economy.

A critical piece of the technical infrastructure that improves internet access is the internet exchange point (IXPs) where internet service providers (ISPs) and other network operators meet to exchange internet traffic. Without a local IXP, Internet Society explains that ISPs have to use expensive international internet connectivity to exchange and access content, having a local IXP results in faster and more affordable Internet access.

The latest report made by the organisation further expands on its study in 2012 which looked at two of Africa’s more advanced IXPs in Kenya and Nigeria.

The report highlighted the significant growth of both IXPs, as well as the cost savings made from exchanging traffic locally as opposed to using expensive international methods.

In Kenya, the IXP grew from carrying 1 Gigabit per second (Gbps) in 2012 to 19 Gbps in 2020, with cost saving totalling US$6mn a year. While in Nigeria IXP grew from carrying only 300 Megabits per second (Mbps) to 125 Gbps in 2020, with cost savings of US$40mn.

“Kenya and Nigeria are in a better position than ever before to cope with – and contribute to – the digital revolution that COVID-19 has accelerated as the Internet becomes a lifeline for many people. It’s clear Africa is ready to embrace the digital revolution to spur economic development. But reaching this goal will depend on our community of passionate people on the ground, policymakers, regulators and businesses embracing IXPs and working in collaboration to create these essential local traffic anchors,” explains Michuki Mwangi, Senior Director of Internet Technology and Development for the Internet Society.

This significant growth for internet development in Kenya and Nigeria, highlights the critical role that IXPs and the infrastructure needed plays in establishing a strong and sustainable internet ecosystem. The achievements made in Kenya and Nigeria is also a significant step towards achieving 80% of Africa's internet traffic being local.

 Within the report detailing Kenya and NIgeria’s progress, the organisation gives credit to the governments of the two countries which have adopted policies that have made it easier for the ecosystem to thrive. Not only did the governments make it easier for different service providers to develop submarine communication cables, but they have also adopted data protection regulations that have ignited confidence and attracted international service providers. 

This ecosystem is vital for both countries in order to develop their service economies which thrive on financial trade and professional services. 

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