Slow internet connectivity could just be that one thing killing business in Africa. The situation, however, appears to be improving with the recent news that Kenya’s mobile internet speed is by far higher than that of the US, other African countries and South Korea – home to the fastest average speed in fixed internet connection.
According to a report from content delivery network Akamai, Kenya currently ranks as the world’s 14th fastest average data connection speed of 13.7 megabits per second. About 88% of Kenya’s population use mobile phones to access the internet owing to cheaper data plans and widespread use of mobile money platforms like M-Pesa.
High-speed internet connection is a 21st-century necessity for running and keeping up a successful business anywhere in the world. Being able to download and deliver online content which all boils down to speed. Having slow internet speeds more or less hinders the effective operation of e-commerce, e-banking and other online businesses.
Kenyan internet specialist Njeri Rionge explains that the country has deployed a nationwide fiber optics channel which has enabled it to gain access to high-speed mobile internet connections. Mobile internet subscriptions have overtaken fixed-line internet subscriptions over the past decade and in 2013, mobile penetration in Africa reached 66%.
Internet data moves fast but it still takes a long time to travel great distances especially to Africa. You might be tempted to assume that if your websites and videos take forever to load, it’s probably because the local internet connection is a mess.
However, slow internet connections in most African countries could be attributed to the lack or limit of data centers in Africa which can help speed up things. Most local and foreign websites are hosted out of Africa and this has limited the speed at which information is retrieved as most of these hosting services get overloaded on a daily basis coupled with poor internet infrastructure. For instance, Google has seven data centers in the US, four in Europe, two in Asia, one in Latin America but none in Africa.
Earlier in March, Open Signal reported South Africa as having the fastest mobile internet connection in Africa having speeds of just 9.93 Mbps. This speed is, however, by far lower than the speed Kenya now has as a result of wiring the entire country with fiber optics.
Other African countries may soon start deploying submarine cables (fiber optic cables) though some countries like Cameroon, Gambia, have already taken a step in that direction.
Instituting government policies that build on the need for mobile telecommunication companies to make mobile internet access cheap and affordable, could as well be a milestone to these countries benefiting from superfast broadband connections.