Internet speeds across Africa remain below minimum standards

AUGUST 15, 2017

It takes more than a day to download a high definition film in the countries with the slowest internet speeds in the world. According to data from a global broadband speed league most of those countries are in Africa.

The speed gaps between various countries remain very wide as the five fastest countries have download speeds which are around 40 times faster than the five slowest. Singapore ranks as the highest on broadband speed with 55.13 megabits per second (Mbps) while war-torn Yemen has a meager speed of just 0.34 Mbps.

None of the 39 ranked African countries achieved average speeds above 10 Mbps, deemed to be the minimum speed required by consumers “to fully participate in a digital society” by the UK’s regulator, Ofcom. Globally, of the 189 countries ranked, 139 countries have failed to achieve that target. Of the lowest ranked 10 countries, six are African.

Slow internet speeds are having a negative impact in several African countries with fledgling tech hubs and ecosystems. Lagos is home to a $2 billion tech ecosystem and internet speed and access are often cited as a major limitation by startup founders and their prospective customers.

In Singapore it takes 20 minutes to download an HD movie with a size of 7.5 GB. However it takes more than a day in DR Congo, Burkina Faso, and Gabon, the three worst ranked African countries. In Kenya, the highest ranked African country, it will take 18 hours.

Writing on broadband infrastructure and unemployment, Oliver Falck says, “Broadband infrastructure has positive economic growth effects, but only small employment effects; the latter is due to a mixture of positive effects among high-skilled workers and negative effects among low-skilled workers.” He explains that on the one hand, positive employment effects might arise from innovative business models or new internet-based products and services. On the other hand, not everyone will profit from the “digital revolution” equally. The introduction of new technologies may make some, especially routine-based jobs obsolete.

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