Is this the digital worlds last frontier?
“We are all now connected by the internet, like neurons in a giant brain” –Stephen Hawking
Looking at a map depicting global internet user penetration verifies this thought, but also leaves an important and impactful fact unmentioned: the significant gap between African countries, in particular sub-Saharan Africa, and the rest of the world.
On average, internet user penetration in sub-Saharan Africa stands at 24%, with some markets undercutting that average significantly, like Malawi, at only 17.8%.
Major hurdles to overcome that issue include a lack of affordability driven by non-existing fixed lines network access, lack of mobile network coverage, monopolistic pricing structures and regulatory stumble stones like the unavailability of mobile network frequencies. Another, related issue is the intermittent nature of energy availability required, for instance, to power cell towers. This is being tackled by increasingly using stand-alone solar-powered installations.
The lack of broadband internet access affordability in sub-Saharan Africa is mainly driven by a combination of high internet access costs and low income levels as highlighted in the following graph.