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Kenya Floored as Cable Lists Cheapest Internet Providers in Africa

Kenya has been beaten by Somalia, which has the most affordable mobile internet in Africa and seventh worldwide this year according to a survey conducted by British technology research firm Cable which established the average cost of 1GB of mobile data in 228 countries in 2020.

Somalia has the cheapest data in Africa where 1GB of data costs Sh53 on average from Sh662 last year, it is seventh in the world. In East Africa, Tanzania is the leading country with citizens paying Sh78 per GB for the service,” the report states.

The Business Daily quoted Abdiaziz Duwane Issak, the Director- General at the Ministry of Posts, Telecommunication and Technology in Somalia saying that they have improved regulation of the communication sector.

The National Communications Act, which was passed in 2017 paved the way for further development and increase of investment for the telecom industry. A unified licensing framework was also developed which protects the competitiveness of the market and encourages more investment in the sector. Another factor is the reduction of taxes to attract more investment and innovation. All those factors led to establishment of a competitive market and a high certainty for more investment in the sector. Therefore, the consumer’s choice is increased to more efficient low-cost services provided by the operators,”

Kenyas ‘Silicon Savannah‘ was ranked ninth in Africa and 41st globally, trailing its eastern Africa neighbours.

The study shows that despite a drop in internet costs to Sh112 this year from Sh114 last year, Kenya requires deeper investment in infrastructure to lower the cost of internet for its citizens.

According to Cable ranking in Africa, Somalia is followed by Sudan at position 13, Algeria 15th, Reunion 22nd, Tanzania 23rd, Ghana 34th, Western Sahara 36th, Morocco 37th, Kenya, Mayotte 44th, Egypt 45th while Djibouti closed the top 50 index at position 48.

Citizens in these countries pay Sh68, Sh70, Sh77, Sh101, Sh106, Sh106, Sh112, Sh116, Sh117 and Sh121 for every 1GB of mobile data on average, respectively.

Interestingly, Zambia, Tunisia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Uganda, Congo, Guinea, Burundi, Lesotho, Ethiopia, Burkina Faso and Mauritius all make it in the top 100, surpassing developed economies such as Germany, the United States, Switzerland, South Korea, Belgium, Portugal, New Zealand, Norway and Netherlands.

All East African nations are ranked in the top 100. Tanzania and Kenya are followed by Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi in the affordability index where people pay Sh160, Sh175 and Sh228, respectively.

Netizens of Malawi and Sao Tome and Principe pay the most for data, at Sh2,960 and Sh3,052 for every 1GB,respectively.

India and Israel have the cheapest data in the world, costing Sh9 and Sh11 respectively, while Kenya’s cheapest data for the survey done last February was priced at Sh28 with the costliest one retailed at Sh1,100.


A screeshot showing a prompt to purchase unlimited data in Somalia

The lowest cost of 1GB of data in Somalia, Sudan, Algeria, Reunion and Tanzania for 30 days is Sh19, Sh27, Sh17, Sh23 and Sh32, respectively.

A separate study shows that despite Africa’s efforts to make data affordable, where 12 countries rank in the top 50 list, the digital quality of life (DQL) in the continent has deteriorated.

Kenya emerged at position 77 out of 85 countries, beating Nigeria and Algeria in DQL but  was unable to surpass the technological convenience in South Africa, Morocco and Tunisia in the past 12 months.

The 2020 DQL Index Edition report carried out by Virtual Private Network service provider Surfshark exposes Africa’s weak and below average digital quality of life.

Kenya has better digital government services available than Morocco, Indonesia, Nepal and other countries. But when it comes to cyber security, Kenya comes 68th. E-security has the strongest correlation (0.89) with the DQL. Focusing resources on improving a country’s cybersecurity and protecting people’s personal data would have the greatest impact on their digital quality of life. During the first month of the lockdown, 49 of 85 countries experienced deteriorated speeds of mobile internet. Internet speed, both mobile and broadband is higher in countries with high ICT adoption rates and internet usage,” the survey points out,” the report states.

Key among factors the study uses to rank countries are internet affordability, internet quality and speed, electronic infrastructure and penetration, e-security and e-government services.

People in 75 percent of the researched countries have to work more than the global average to afford the internet,” the study discloses, ranking Kenya 74th in the internet affordability index, only above Nigeria in Africa.

As of 2020, nearly half of world population is still offline even as talks of inclusion regarding digital transformation gains ground.

In fact, at the current rate of internet growth and adoption, universal affordable internet will not be achieved until 2043. Achieving the universal access goal, therefore, will require closing this global digital gender gap,” says Sonia Jorge, Executive Director, Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) and Head of Digital Inclusion Programme, Web Foundation.

Eventually the cost of data will come down but that may take time because we have few mobile internet service providers in Kenya. But cloud storage will soon be very affordable as more global providers like Google and Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure make their presence known to local consumers,” said Timothy Oriedo, chief executive of Predictive Analytics Lab in Kenya.

While the World Bank Digital Report of 2019 ranks Kenya’s internet speed second in sub-Saharan Africa at 10.1 megabytes per second after Madagascar, digital transformation in the country is still plagued by unstable data and a relatively low smartphone penetration.

The government through the Communication Authority of Kenya is looking for ways to make smartphones affordable,” said ICT Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru during the Telkom-Loon 4G internet launch last June.

Kenya, which is now betting on balloon internet that relies on aerial transmitters to bring down the cost of data and boost access to underserved regions during the pandemic, still needs to work on its cyber security resilience, having lost Sh29.5 billion to cyber gangs in 2018 alone, according to cybersecurity consultant Serianu.

DQL sourced data from United Nations, World Bank, International Telecommunications Union, US Department of State, World Economic Forum, Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertés, Speedtest, Cable, United Nations University, and the International Development Research Centre.

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