Digital famine is Africa’s own creation

Posted on April 26, 2014  /  4 Comments

AfricaAfrica lags far behind in every front of ICT indicators, according to the latest report of ITU. Subsequently a recent study of Analysis Mason said, “Every African country has international fibre connectivity, but lack of competition at the national level is keeping prices high.”

The study has detected that 35 of the 48 Sub-Saharan countries have no competition among national fiber providers. Eight have limited competition – that is, two providers besides the mobile companies, usually the incumbent fixed-line operator and either the government or the electricity transmission company.

Only five countries (Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe) can be said to have effective competition among multiple players. In countries that lack effective competition, fibre connectivity in cities that are far removed from submarine cable landing stations often costs five or six times as much as it does at the landing station.

The report hits bull’s-eye when it says the following:

Uptime is a major issue on terrestrial fibre networks in Africa. Common problems that lead to availability being much lower than in more-developed regions include:

  • fibre not being buried deep enough (resulting in frequent physical damage, both accidental and deliberate)
  • poor quality splicing (which reduces the throughput and can result in intermittent faults)
  • poor maintenance of manholes (which can lead to flooding and cable damage)
  • poor systems and processes for fault management (there are even anecdotal accounts of maintenance companies deliberately sabotaging cables to create work for themselves).

Overhead lines can also be damaged by vehicles hitting the support poles, trees falling on the cables, wildlife (particularly monkeys) and vandalism. Lines carried on high-tension electricity pylons are generally more reliable because the cables are carried high in the air, the pylons are generally situated away from roads and the proximity of high-voltage power lines discourages vandals.

Download the full report of Analysis Mason.


  1. Africa is not country. Yet, it is being compared with Bangladesh.

    It may be useful to go through some composite indices that do not factor in population (as does IDI from the ITU; this procedure necessarily lowers the scores of countries with large populations like BD) and see how Bangladesh stacks up. If you look at the latest NRI rankings, BD is 119th. S Africa is 70th; Rwanda is 85th. Ghana is 96th and Nigeria is 112th. Just a few examples from Sub-Saharan Africa.

  2. You’re referring to my Tweet, not this post.

    Infrastructure (good or bad) is not the roadblock in Africa. And so is the case in Bangladesh. Moreover, the BD regulator has killed competition by amending infra-sharing guideline in 2011. It’s worse than historical protection in Africa and elsewhere. There is nothing wrong with comparing a country with a continent in terms of policy. We often see the EU and OECD indicators being used while assessing a country.

  3. Abu Saeed is right. It doesn’t really matter how much infrastructure a country has, if it isn’t allowed to be shared, the country’s ranking goes down.

  4. Abu Saab, I entirely agree. In India also though passive infra sharing is permissible, but sharing of Active Infra is to state the best is Grey, with no clarity on the regulation and finally leading to the interpretation being a big No, No, as for as active sharing is concerned.
    Hope your discussion motivates our policy makers to clear the cobweb for this urgent developmental and growth issue. Satyen Gupta