Sub-Saharan Africa has made impressive progress in expanding digital infrastructure over the last few years. This report examines the status of mobile networks and coverage, national backbones and international connectivity in the region. Much of this infrastructure has been constructed by the private sector under varying degrees of competition. Despite the steady gains, the region continues to lag all others in access to information and communication technologies.
This is partly due to the inevitable link between per capita income and telecommunication access. However in many cases the market is not functioning as well as it could. This is due to factors exogenous to the telecommunication sector such as poor governance, lack of electricity, the high cost of doing business in the region and a low level of digital skills. Other factors are internal to the sector and include imperfect competition, a lack of open access to fibre optic backbone networks and constrained spectrum allocation. Government strategies to narrow the digital gap through universal service funds have also been largely ineffective throughout the region.
Solutions to these challenges require a top-level multi-sector approach. They can be alleviated through a more competitive market environment including embedding open access principles, in sector regulations, support for training regulators, more efficient and speedier spectrum allocation, improved universal service programs and initiatives for promoting mass digital literacy.
This report has been produced for Evidence on Demand with the assistance of the UK Department for International Development (DFID) contracted through the Climate, Environment, Infrastructure and Livelihoods Professional Evidence and Applied Knowledge Services (CEIL PEAKS) programme, jointly managed by DAI (which incorporates HTSPE Limited) and IMC Worldwide Limited.
Minges, M. Rapid desk based study: summary of the main constraints to increased digital connectivity in Sub-Saharan Africa. Evidence on Demand, UK (2016) ii + 15 pp. [DOI: 10.12774/eod_hd.march2016.mingesm]