The cost of internet access dropped everywhere in the world last year—except in Africa

Yomi Kazeem

The already high price of internet access got even more expensive for Africans over the past year.

With internet users on the continent already paying the highest prices for mobile data relative to average monthly income, new data from the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) shows the average price of a gigabyte (GB) of data (relative to income) has increased over the past year in Africa while dropping or staying same in other regions.

It’s the first reversal in price trends seen since A4AI began measuring prices four years ago. A4AI’s latest report measures prices in 100 countries, up from 60 in the last report, and includes price points for several data packages.

As Quartz Africa has previously reported, the high cost of internet access—sometimes as expensive as $35 per gigabyte—puts affordable internet out of the reach of many Africans. Compounding the problem of high cost of access, internet speeds across Africa are also still far below the global minimum standard. In many ways, the progress already made around innovation based on access to internet on the continent, including financial inclusion and payments, serve as evidence of what’s possible if there were fewer barriers to access. For instance, studies show small businesses that use the internet grow twice as fast as those that do not.

Globally, of the 100 countries measured in the report, only 30 have mobile broadband prices in the affordability threshold where 1GB of mobile data is priced at no more than 2% of the average income. But for the majority in sub-Saharan Africa, current prices are “well beyond what is considered affordable,” the report notes. Indeed, in sixteen countries across Africa, purchasing 1GB costs more than 10% of the monthly average income, latest rankings show.

But high costs are not the only barrier to internet access across the continent with internet shutdowns now happening more frequently in Africa than anywhere else. And a report from the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) shows African countries led by authoritarians are more susceptible to these shutdowns. In fact, of the 22 African states that have disrupted internet access in the last five years, 77% are listed as dictatorships, while 23% are considered partial democracies.

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