Opportunity and difficulty in African internet adoption

Only 28% of users on the African continent utilise mobile data connections, as fixed broadband remains dominant. But the benefits of potential connectivity are profound

Opportunity and difficulty in African internet adoption

Data sourced from analysis firm CMRIndia offers insight into the difficulties of internet access across the African continent. According to an article from CMRIndia there’s both challenge and opportunity on the continent, with particular focus on the expense of mobile broadband in Sub-Saharan Africa. Internet users in Sub-Saharan Africa remain a minority, as echoed both in CMRIndia and other sources such as the Pew Research Center. However, there are also indications that due to both government policy and further investment into growing broadband connectivity this may soon be a thing of the past.

Infrastructure issues compound adoption problems across Sub-Saharan Africa, although investments, including the installation of undersea cables along the Atlantic coastline, are looking to mitigate this. Smartphone use has also increased massively according to CMRIndia, “Increasing adoption of smartphones, expected to go up to 75% this year from 64% last year, will give a boost to the digital economy in Africa.”

Cables & Fibres

In addition, according to data aggregated by the international law firm White & Case, “At just 36 percent, Africa's internet penetration compares poorly with the 62.5 percent global average.” The vastness and geography of the African continent itself makes installing consistent internet infrastructure challenging. However, despite this mobile broadband coverage is strong and growing. So whilst Africa presents issues for internet access it also presents opportunities, especially for growing GDP in this area of the world.

“The World Bank estimates that in Africa a 10 percent increase in mobile internet penetration could translate to a 2.5 percent increase in gross domestic product (GDP).” Aside from the benefit to overall development, this could see a potential breeding ground for a new digital powerhouse within the African continent.

However, even as adoption increases there is indication that difficulties are not from poor infrastructure, “What is worrying is that over half of the population (53%) does not use the internet despite living in areas that have mobile internet coverage because of the high cost of data,” according to CMRIndia. Mobile data remains one of the most expensive in the world in Sub-Saharan Africa, “In these areas, 1GB of data costs $10,” according to CMRIndia.

The penetration of the digital economy into new markets is directly related to the adoption of the underlying technology that makes equitable access possible. The internet ties us together, but it’s a massive undertaking that only time, money and growth can implement.

Staff Writer

Iwan is a Cardiff-based freelance writer, who joined the Pocket Gamer Biz site fresh-faced from University before moving to the editorial team in November of 2023.