In terms of telecoms infrastructure, countries across Africa pose a number of challenges which for many years contributed to the low take-up of fixed broadband services. The development of this market has long been stymied by the lack of fixed-line infrastructure in rural and semi-rural regions, as well as by the poor quality of networks in those urban areas where they are concentrated. As a result, mobile networks provide the principal platform for voice and data connectivity. Depending on the market, between 90% and 98% of all internet connections are via mobile networks. As a result, governments and regulators alike have concentrated on this platform to deliver on their broadband targets.
This has been achieved by several strategies. One important challenge is providing sufficient spectrum in a coordinated fashion, thereby efficiently managing spectrum use for MNOs across borders. Many governments and regulators have been slow to release spectrum or have preferred to demand such high fees that potential licensees have baulked at bidding for concessions. This has contributed to insufficient spectrum availability and thus poor QoS and network coverage.
However, progress is being made to increase backhaul capacity on both the international and national levels. This backhaul is being used to improve fixed-line telecoms as well as to support growing mobile data traffic. During the last two years several new submarine cables have been completed to provide direct links to southern Europe and Brazil, while terrestrial cables have also been extended to link to telecom infrastructure in the interior landlocked countries.
The 2Africa submarine cable announced in May 2020 will serve the Middle East and Africa region and connect to Europe. It will have 21 landings across 16 countries and will be the first of its kind to connect countries on Africa’s east and west coasts. The project is testament to the continuing investor confidence in submarine cable infrastructure, and recognises that the Africa and Middle East region represents one of the key growth areas for internet traffic.
These projects are supported by sympathetic regulatory regimes as well as by governments which understand the key functions of broadband connectivity for economic growth. Through this awareness countries are placing greater focus on their fibre-based national broadband plans. Efforts are also supplemented by small-scale fibre operators which are expanding their investments beyond the wealthy suburbs and business districts.
The countries covered in this report include: Algeria, Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe.
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