Internet Access Part 1 of 3

Internet access is expanding rapidly across the continent, and with it new organizations are coming to help foster a promising tech start-up scene.

A decade ago, Senegal was one of the most auspicious African countries in the area of Internet adoption, with more than double the Internet penetration of Nigeria. Yet today, Nigeria is ahead with 30% of its population enjoying access to the web versus only 16% in Senegal.

What changed for Senegal and Nigeria and how does this affect the two counties economic outlooks for the future? In order to understand these issues, a study through Balancing Act was commissioned. The findings of that study have been summarized in this report titled “Obstacles and Opportunities for the democratization of broadband in Senegal.”

The report identifies a few issues, the most critical of which are rigid licensing and weak regulation. These two issues have resulted in the incumbent operator holding a de facto monopoly on access to the national fiber infrastructure and the copper lines into households. This lack of competition has kept data prices high and inaccessible to many Senegalese.

To buttress this point, the report compares the system in Senegal to what is found in Kenya and South Africa. The report shows that it was indeed the introduction of liberal licensing regimes in Kenya and South Africa that made it possible for more operators to come into the market, and this increased competition lead to a more universal access.

Balancing Act proposes several key changes, two of which are:

  • Internet suppliers must be authorized to build their own infrastructure and compete against incumbents.
  • Government should encourage competition and transparency in international capacity by enforcing existing but until now ignored regional regulation.

This piece originally reported by Seydina L. Diop , Policy Analyst, Francophone Africa

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