Bringing Fast and Affordable Internet to Africa

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The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically increased people’s dependence on the Internet. In one part of the world, school and doctor visits have moved online, businesses have moved to telecommuting, and friends and family have met virtually.

Yet in Africa, only a fifth of the population, or 22%, has access to the Internet, according to the World Bank. That leaves 700 million people unconnected.

U.S. government agencies and the private sector are working with African partners to connect them. On October 6, Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced a $ 1 billion investment to provide affordable internet access and support entrepreneurs and nonprofits in Africa over the next five years.

“One thing we’ve seen is how technology can be a lifeline, whether you’re a parent looking for information to keep your family healthy, a student learning virtually, or an entrepreneur connecting with. new customers and markets, ”Pichai said, announcing the investment.

Other American companies are also expanding Internet access in Africa. Meta (formerly Facebook), in partnership with South African company MTN GlobalConnect and Mauritian company West Indian Ocean Cable Company, is building one of the largest undersea Internet cable networks in the world. The 2Africa project, announced in May 2020, will build 37,000 kilometers of cable to link 16 African countries to Europe and the Middle East.

Starlink, the satellite internet arm of US aerospace company SpaceX, funded in part by the US Federal Communications Commission, plans to begin connecting rural communities in Africa to high-speed internet through a network of satellites. in 2021.

The US Agency for International Development, in a 2020 report (PDF, 5.8 MB), found that increased internet access brings significant economic benefits to Africans by:

  • Increase the employment and income of highly skilled workers.
  • Set up digital tools that bring essential information on COVID-19 to frontline workers in West Africa.
  • Support businesses that provide underserved communities in East Africa with the resources they need, including electricity and digital financial tools.
  • Improve access to financial services, including a mobile money tool in Kenya that has helped lift 194,000 households out of poverty.

USAID is also extending Internet access to more women, who lack Internet access disproportionately in poor rural communities in Africa and around the world.

Through the AfChix project, USAID and private sector partners, such as the Internet Society and the Network Startup Resource Center, have extended Internet availability to women in rural communities in Senegal, Morocco, Kenya and Africa. Namibia.

The project works with women’s collectives to create internet networks that are implemented and operated by women, extending connectivity and increasing the capacity to build and maintain telecommunications infrastructure and addressing social norms so that women can be considered technology experts.

Through the USAID / Microsoft Airband initiative, USAID and Microsoft are investing in local Internet service providers to expand their networks and bring more women online. The project expands women’s internet access and economic opportunities in countries like Ghana and Kenya by placing women’s needs at the center of meaningful connectivity.

One thing all of these initiatives need to be successful is an open, interoperable, reliable and secure digital economy across the world. That’s why the United States and partner countries are working together under the Digital Connectivity and Cybersecurity Partnership to promote the private sector investments needed to make it happen.

Results? In 2020, the International Development Finance Corporation of the United States invested $ 300 million in new data centers that will support the development of information and communications technologies in South Africa, Kenya and new markets. Africans.

In September, Liquid Intelligent Technologies announced the opening of its fifth mega data center in South Africa. Loans from the DFC, the United Kingdom and the World Bank have supported the development of the centers.

In November 2018, DFC partnered with Africell Holding Limited to provide a $ 100 million loan to expand affordable and quality mobile phone and internet services in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

“Telecommunications are now essential to the economic development and competitiveness of a country,” according to a statement announcing the 2018 loan. “Better connectivity will remove barriers that restrict growth and trade. “


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