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Africa: Telecoms Acceleration

AfricaFocus Bulletin
May 17, 2008 (080517)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

"Growth in Africa's mobile sector has defied all predictions. Africa remains the region with the highest annual growth rate in mobile subscribers and added no less than 65 million new subscribers during 2007. At the beginning of 2008, there were over a quarter of a billion mobile subscribers on the continent. Mobile penetration has risen from just one in 50 people at the beginning of this century to almost one third of the population today." - International Telecommunications Union (ITU)

While Africa still lags behind other continents in telecommunications, the growth in recent years in mobile phones and internet connectivity has been extraordinary. Six countries - South Africa, Nigeria, Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, and Kenya - have more than 10 million mobile phones each, with South Africa and Nigeria each topping 40 million mobile phones. Seven countries -- Seychelles, Gabon, South Africa, Tunisia, Botswana, Mauritius, and Libya, have more than 70 mobile phones for each 100 persons, ranging from 89 percent in the Seychelles to 73 percent in Libya.

Internet connections - particularly broadband connections - are less advanced. But ITU reports for 2007 show ten countries with more than a million internet users each, ranging from 10 million in Nigeria to 1.4 million in Zimbabwe (see below for the full list of the top 25). In terms of internet users per 100 population, Seychelles ranks at the top with more than 35 internet users per 100, Nine other countries also have more than 10 internet users per hundred, ranging from Mauritius with 25 to Algeria and Zimbabwe with a little over 10 each (see below for full list of the top 25).

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains press releases from the International Telecommunications Union Telecom Africa meeting just concluded in Cairo, as well as a note on Egyptian government efforts to block internet access to critics of the government. It also contains lists of the top 25 African countries by total number of mobile phones, mobile phones per 100 population, total number of internet users, and internet users per 100 population, and a link to additional statistics on-line at the ITU website ( For a summary of ICT indicators for Africa for 2007, see

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on African information and communications technology, and a custom search of top web sites on ICT issues in Africa, visit


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++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++++++++

Top 25 African Countries
Total Number of Mobile Phones, in Thousands

42,300    South Africa
40,396    Nigeria
30,047    Egypt
21,446    Algeria
20,029    Morocco
11,440    Kenya
 8,252    Tanzania
 7,842    Tunisia
 7,604    Ghana
 7,464    Sudan
 7,050    Cote d'Ivoire
 6,592    D.R. Congo
 4,536    Cameroon
 4,500    Libya
 4,195    Uganda
 4,123    Senegal
 3,307    Angola
 3,300    Mozambique
 2,639    Zambia
 2,483    Mali
 2,218    Madagascar
 1,895    Benin
 1,427    Botswana

Total for continent 264,475,000

For more statistics, see

Top 25 African Countries
Mobile phones per 100 population

89.23                    Seychelles
87.86                    Gabon
87.08                    South Africa
75.94                    Tunisia
75.84                    Botswana
74.19                    Mauritius
73.05                    Libya
64.15                    Morocco
63.34                    Algeria
46.58                    Gambia
43.35                    Eq. Guinea
41.62                    Mauritania
39.80                    Egypt
38.58                    Namibia
36.6                     Cote d'Ivoire
35.40                    Congo
33.31                    Senegal
33.29                    Swaziland
32.39                    Ghana
30.48                    Kenya
27.9                     Cape Verde
27.28                    Nigeria
24.45                    Cameroon

Average for continent: 27.48 per 100

For more statistics, see

Top 25 African Countries
Total Number of Internet Users, in thousands

10,000              Nigeria
 8,620              Egypt
 7,300              Morocco
 5,100              South Africa
 3,500              Algeria
 2,770.3            Kenya
 1,722.2            Tunisia
 1,500              Sudan
 1,395              Malawi
 1,351              Zimbabwe
   820              Senegal
   650              Ghana
   500              Zambia
   384.3            Tanzania
   370              Cameroon
   320              Mauritius
   320              Togo
   300              Cote d'Ivoire
   291              Ethiopia
   260              Libya
   230.4            D.R. Congo
   178              Mozambique
   150              Benin

Total for continent: 50,406,400

For more statistics, see

Top 25 African Countries
Total Number of Internet Users, per 100 Population

35.67     Seychelles
25.48     Mauritius
23.38     Morocco
16.68     Tunisia
14.59     São Tomé and Príncipe
11.42     Egypt
10.75     South Africa
10.34     Algeria
10.12     Zimbabwe
  7.89    Kenya
  6.75    Nigeria
  6.62    Senegal
  6.48    Uganda
  6.36    Cape Verde
  5.87    Gambia
  5.76    Gabon
  5.07    Togo
  4.87    Namibia
  4.55    Botswana
  4.36    Libya
  4.19    Zambia
  4.08    Swaziland
  3.89    Sudan

Average for continent: 5.34 per hundred

For more statistics, see

ITU Telecom Africa 2008 opens in Cairo

Africa: A Continent on the Move

Press Release

International Telecommunication Union

Sanjay Acharya, Chief, Media Relations and Public Information ITU, Tel: +41 22 730 6135, E-mail

or Fernando Lagra¤a, Executive Manager, ITU TELECOM, Tel: +41 22 730 5094, E-mail

Cairo, 12 May 2008 - President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt inaugurated Telecom Africa 2008, which opened to the public today in Cairo, Egypt. A major showcase for cutting edge information and communication technologies (ICT) that includes an industry exhibition, ITU Telecom Africa presents a unique forum for brainstorming and an important networking platform for both governments and the private sector to chart the future course of the ICT industry.

Some 200 companies from 45 countries, including several from outside the African region, are exhibiting products, applications and services. Around 70 heads of international companies and 50 ministers along with key regulators and investment bodies are attending the event from 12 to 15 May. ITU Telecom Africa has already attracted over 5000 participants from 93 countries, marking a record since the event was opened to countries from outside the region, and includes 600 Forum participants and 200 media.

While the exhibition underscores the latest developments in the ICT market, the Forum sessions offer both regional and global insights on Africa's position in the ICT sector, its unique market drivers, and the host of factors critical in sustaining its most effective enabling environment. The 30 Forum sessions cover topics such as public-private partnerships, entrepreneurial success stories, capacity building and cybersecurity. Over 150 speakers will participate in the Forum sessions, which also include the Youth Forum and the Telecommunication Development Symposium.

Africa at a Crossroads

A highlight of the formal opening was the Press launch of ITU's regional report, "African Telecommunication/ICT Indicators 2008: At a Crossroads". Following booming growth in the mobile telephony sector - which saw 65 million new subscribers in 2007 - and an encouraging investment climate spurring economic development in the region, Africa is a continent on the move: the theme for ITU Telecom Africa 2008.

The Indicators Report is an invaluable information tool to inform and guide policy-makers, investors, analysts and other observers of Africa's telecommunications landscape. It contains an extensive overview of key sector developments, including a number of recommendations to sustain growth and deepen access to ICT in the region.

At the opening ceremony, the Prime Minister of Egypt Dr Ahmed Nazif highlighted the impressive developments in the ICT sector in Africa. "As all African people are looking forward to the future, Telecom Africa brings in members of the ICT community both in Africa and around the world to identify the areas of opportunities and those of challenge, share effective responses and witness major achievements," the Prime Minister said. "The African ICT sector - with all its technical, financial, and manpower potentials - has gives us a competitive edge." He added that IT-enabled services and Internet-based tools emerge as new horizons from which African countries can benefit.

Dr Hamadoun Touré, ITU Secretary-General said that ITU Telecom Africa 2008 is a strategic step in bridging the digital divide. "This event in Cairo marks a decisive milestone in our commitment to connecting the world," said Dr Touré. He challenged the ICT industry to explore the many opportunities that are available across the continent - and which would be on display during the week - to forge the tools that can act as catalysts in other sectors of the economy and of society, such as health, education, business, agriculture, and government services.

Fast-paced growth in ICT fuels overall economic development in Africa

Addressing the opening Press conference, Dr Touré said, "Africa has been the fastest growing market worldwide over the last three years," adding that much of this growth had been stimulated by competition, policy and regulatory reform in most African telecommunication markets. "Today, the African ICT industry is an exciting place to be. Market liberalization continues and most countries have established regulatory bodies to ensure a fair, competitive and enabling environment."

"Today, more than ever, as the world shifts towards an information age that is transforming it into a global village, technology contributes to the core of economic growth and better living standards," said Dr Tarek Kamel, Minister of Communications & Information Technology of Egypt. "It is our obligation to pave the way for African citizens who are not yet online, investigate what the barriers are, work on overcoming them and make sure to maximize Africa's share of the next billion users of the cyber world." He added, "It is our obligation to encourage and attract further investments from Africa and from the rest of the world to make use of the growing market opportunities."

Mr Naguib Sawiris, CEO of Orascom Telecom, speaking on behalf of the industry said the mobile revolution would play a role in every aspect of life, from banking and travel to cultural pursuits and entertainment, and even to the strengthening of democracy.

Mr Reza Jafari, Chairman of the ITU TELECOM Board of Directors commented that many people have the misconception that there is no money to be made in Africa. "But that is wrong," he said. "I believe if there is a new business model, ICT services can be provided at low cost - and this would help expand the industry even further."

During a tour of the exhibition, Prime Minister Nazif launched the ITU Global View, an interactive map-based tracking tool developed in coordination with Microsoft and IDV Solutions. The software integrates existing ITU data sources allowing users to check the status, identify gaps and avoid overlaps in collaborative ICT-for-development programmes around the world. He said the tool was very "pertinent", showing good comparisons between countries in Africa. ITU Global View is designed to help implement the connectivity goals of the World Summit on the Information Society. New ITU report: African Telecommunication/ICT Indicators 2008

As the end of the first decade of the new millennium approaches, Africa stands at a crossroads with ICT policy makers faced with important choices. Launching the ITU African Telecommunication/ICT Indicators 2008 report, Mr Sami Al Basheer Al Morshid, Director of ITU's Telecommunication Development Bureau, said Africa presented several growth opportunities in the ICT sector.

Growth in Africa's mobile sector has defied all predictions. Africa remains the region with the highest annual growth rate in mobile subscribers and added no less than 65 million new subscribers during 2007. At the beginning of 2008, there were over a quarter of a billion mobile subscribers on the continent. Mobile penetration has risen from just one in 50 people at the beginning of this century to almost one third of the population today. Mobile subscribers are also now more evenly distributed. In 2000, South Africa accounted for over half of all Africa's mobile subscribers, but by 2007, almost 85 per cent were in other countries. Mobile success, driven largely by competition, is also spawning new services such as micro-payment prepaid recharging, single rate inter-regional roaming and the uptake of m-commerce applications.

While mobile services have become more accessible and affordable, Internet access has not kept pace. It is estimated that there were some 50 million Internet users in Africa in 2007, translating into around one person among twenty. Over half of the region's Internet users are estimated to be located in North African countries and South Africa. In Sub Saharan Africa, only three per cent of the population is online. The scarcity of international Internet bandwidth and lack of Internet Exchange Points (IXPs) drives up prices. As a result, Africa is the most costly for Internet access. The average monthly Internet subscription is almost USD 50 in Africa, close to 70 per cent of average per capita income.

Additional excerpt from ITU press release, May 5, 2008

Broadband penetration is low across the continent. There were around two million fixed broadband subscribers in Africa in 2007, less than a quarter of the population of metropolitan Lagos, the former capital of Nigeria. Only five African countries had a broadband penetration of more than one per 100 inhabitants in 2007. In comparison, the average broadband penetration in OECD countries was 18.8 in June 2007 and the lowest ranked country was Mexico, with a penetration of 4.6, or some 38 times more than the average for Africa. Fixed broadband access is mostly limited to urban centres. The low availability, poor condition and lack of competition in the public switched telephone network market constrains the deployment of fixed broadband access.

Morocco's Internet users are almost 100% broadband

Broadband prices remain very high compared to income levels although average prices for Africa disguise significant underlying variability. Morocco, for example, has not only one of the highest broadband penetration rates in Africa, but also the lowest broadband prices, at USD 18 per month for a 256 kbps package. Broadband has proven so popular in Morocco that by the end of 2007, over 95 per cent of all Internet subscribers had a high-speed connection.

Egyptian Website Blocked As Country Hosts Africa's ITU Conference

Balancing Act Africa News Update

May 16, 2008

On 12 May 2008, the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information reported that the website of the Egyptian Movement for Change ( ), or Kefaya, has been blocked for those who have Internet access through the T-Data Company. T-Data, the country's largest Internet service provider, has been under direct government oversight since May 4.

Many visitors to the Kefaya website were surprised at their inability to browse the site in the run-up to the 4 May general strike, whether through T-Data or the Link company. While Link later stopped blocking the site, T-Data has continued blocking the site until now, leaving Internet users unable to access it. It is ironic that the time when the website of Egypt's most important political movement is blocked coincides with the hosting of the largest telecommunication conference in Africa, the Africa Telecoms Conference.

Some of HRinfo's technicians attempted to browse the blocked website using different computers and from different locations, but all their attempts were in vain while using T-Data connections. The incident indicates clearly the Egyptian government's return to its practice of blocking Internet sites, which it had earlier abandoned.

Said Samir Gad, editor-in-chief of the Kefaya website, said "The website is performing normally with other ISP companies, but the technical supervisor of the website informed us that the T-Data Co. blocked Kefaya through the IP address."

Mohamed Ragab, director of HRinfo's technical unit, stated: "The decision to block T-Data customers from accessing Kefaya's website is ridiculous and the kind of action not practiced anymore except by the world's most dictatorial governments. Internet users will use a proxy to get around the block or simply transfer their accounts to other companies. The only loser from this decision is T-Data and the Egyptian government."
(Source: Arabic Network for Human Rights Information)

AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

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