A4AI Affordability Report: Consumers in African countries pay the highest data rates in the world

Consumers in African countries are paying some of the highest rates in the world for internet access as a proportion of income, due to a lack of competition in local markets according to a new report released Tuesday. The Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) assessed 136 low and middle-income countries for their annual Affordability Report.

Middle-income examples from the report include Malaysia, Colombia, India, Jamaica, South Africa, and Ghana, while low income examples were Nepal, Mali, Haiti, Liberia, Yemen, and Mozambique. The A4AI defines affordability as 1GB of mobile broadband data costing no more than 2% of average monthly income. But the average across the African continent is 7.12%, and in some cases 1GB costs more than a fifth of average earnings.
A4AI’s Executive Director, Sonia N. Jorge, told PC Mag that
While overall there was a slight improvement since last year, we’re still not seeing the level of policy change needed to put internet access within reach for the billions still kept offline by high costs. Unfortunately governments seem to be crossing their fingers and hoping that market forces will get citizens connected. With the rate of growth in the number of people coming online slowing, we know laissez-faire markets alone will not get us to universal access. We also need governments to adopt smart policies and commit to serious investment in the sector, including investments in infrastructure as well as digital skills and policy and regulatory frameworks, including community networks and public access options like free public Wi-Fi and telecenters to provide more choices for consumers.

‘Competition is core to success’

African countries are subject to the least affordable internet prices in the world, according to A4AI data.
Citizens of Chad, DR Congo, and the Central African Republic must all pay more than 20% of average earnings for 1GB of mobile broadband data. By contrast, the most affordable rates in the continent are in Egypt at 0.5% and Mauritius at 0.59%.
Overall, the report found that costs are falling faster in low-income countries than middle-income counterparts, but in many cases prices remain prohibitive.
“Our research estimates that 1GB data in a monopoly mobile market could be as much as USD $7.33 more expensive than if it were a two-operator market,” the authors said.
Recommended measures to increase competition include “fair rules for market entry and incentives to encourage new competitors,” such as a liberal and transparent licensing regime.
The A4AI is an initiative of The Web Foundation, founded by inventor of the Web Tim Berners-Lee, with partner organizations that include Google and Facebook.
As of the end of 2018, 50 percent of the world was online, but there are vast discrepancies in the quality of service people receive. For 2.3 billion people, a 1GB mobile broadband plan is unaffordable.

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