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Africa internet penetration rate is lagging

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By Usman Oladimeji

Internet penetration rate within the continent stands at 43 percent.

According to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), Africa witnessed a considerable surge in internet users from 4.5 million in 2000 to approximately 600 million in 2022. However, despite this growth, the penetration rate in Africa stands at 43%, significantly lower than the global average of 68.6%. ICANN reported that the Internet remains inaccessible to a significant number of individuals in Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, Egypt, and various other regions due to inadequate Infrastructure, along with the exorbitant expenses associated with data and devices.

ICANN is charged with the vital role of overseeing multiple databases associated with namespaces and numerical spaces, guaranteeing a stable and secure operation. According to a 191-page research study called the Africa Domain Name Industry 2023, the organization stated that despite its vast diversity, Africa’s digital adoption rates place most countries in the region at the bottom of global rankings. The improvement observed since 2016, though notable, did not bridge the gap between the continent and other regions regarding internet access.

Level of penetration in Africa ranges from 7 to 85%.

With an average penetration rate of 43 percent, Africa still falls behind the global average of 68 percent, it revealed. The level of penetration across countries within the continent reveals significant disparities, ranging from a mere seven percent in Eritrea to a commendable 85 percent in Kenya. Despite such discrepancies between Internet usage across African countries, the continent still trails behind other regions in both adoption and the growth of its local internet sector.

Although Africa’s Internet user base has experienced a twofold increase between June 2014 and December 2021, the overall global count of Internet users has soared from three billion to five billion. Africa’s portion of the overall percentage has experienced a slight rise, moving from 9.8 percent to 11.7 percent. ICANN also identifies a prominent contrast, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), which had 980 million individuals in 2015 compared to North Africa’s 380 million. Meanwhile, the figures observed in 2022 were approximately 400 million and 980 million people respectively.

Smartphone devices boost usage in Africa.

It was highlighted that the majority of Africans utilize mobile phones to access online connections. Conversely, back in 2015, Africa had a low figure of mobile Broadband subscriptions, with a rate of slightly over 10 percent per one hundred individuals, in contrast to the global average of approximately 47 percent. In 2019, the percentage of Internet Access via Smartphones skyrocketed to 33.1 percent, while the global average stood at 75 percent at that time. Nevertheless, these numbers fail to reveal the extensive disparities among nations.

Majority of smartphone users heavily relied on apps, particularly those associated with prominent websites like Facebook. This underscores the ongoing impact of smart devices on Internet usage in Africa, where the majority of Africans access online services primarily through smartphones. ICANN has reported that as of 2022, the number of smartphone connections in SSA is approximately 499 million out of a total of 980 million SIM-connections. Furthermore, the penetration of mobile subscribers among the population is at 46 percent. Additionally, there are approximately 287 million individuals (25 percent penetration) who use mobile connections, with a smartphone adoption rate reaching 64 percent of the overall mobile phone users.

Related Article: Nigeria is still at 48% broadband penetration

By 2025, it is predicted that the smartphone user base in Nigeria will surpass 140 million, considering its population exceeds 200 million. Presently, around 25 to 40 million individuals are estimated to be utilizing smartphones as of early 2023. A discovery from an ICANN separate study revealed that smartphone-based Internet browsing in Africa has surged to an impressive 40% on average. It was found that in Ghana, a whopping 51% of participants utilized smartphones to browse the web, closely followed by 47% in Nigeria, South Africa at 40%, Kenya at 34%, and Uganda at 29%.


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