Investments into network infrastructure and deployment have led to several African countries surging in global rankings that gauge internet speeds at telcos and internet service providers.
According to the Speedtest Global Index by Ookla, a global network intelligence and connectivity research firm, by the end of 2022, seven African countries had moved up by more than five positions in the global ranking of median mobile internet download speeds, while seven others upped their fixed broadband speed rankings by a similar number of spots.
Over the first 11 months of 2022, fixed broadband speeds grew faster (28%) than mobile download speeds (17%) compared to the Index’s November 2021 figures, which demonstrates the continent’s focus on increasing internet connectivity for its citizens.
During the period under review, lowly-ranked African countries made the most significant strides. Rwanda made the biggest leap in fixed broadband speeds, with the result that its position in the global rankings rose by 47 places. This is largely attributed to the liberalization of the sector, which saw the east African nation grant 114 fixed broadband licenses to internet service providers—including continental heavyweight Liquid Telecom and mobile network operators, MTN and Airtel—between 2021 and 2022. This, in turn, enabled the expansion of the fiber optic network to households and corporate services in the City of Kigali, Musanze, and Rubavu, according to the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA) annual report. Rwanda’s internet penetration stood at 60.6% by the close of 2022, with its international bandwidth capacity rising by 29.4%.
Malawi moved nine positions to 148 while Djibouti and Congo jumped seven slots to 153 and 103 respectively, while Mauritius, Lesotho, and Guinea improved their rankings by five places each to settle at 113, 127, and 154.
Burkina Faso, previously among the lowest ranking countries, moved up the most places in Africa’s mobile internet speeds, shifting 22 places to rank 102. Early in 2022, Burkina Faso completed the first phase of a national fiber backbone project to connect its capital city to 145 more municipalities and neighboring countries. Burkina Faso will also benefit from a partnership between Orange Telecom and off-grid network operator, Vanu, to deliver technology upgrades across 1,070 sites in three countries. 170 of those will be in Burkina Faso, 700 in Côte d’Ivoire and 200 in Liberia. “In order to provide digital services for all, Orange will deploy its services by strategically improving/increasing its network coverage so that no one will be left behind,” said Orange Group deputy director general in charge of operations in Côte d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, and Liberia, Nafy Coulibaly.
Botswana and Uganda, already seated higher in the global rankings, moved 15 places each—to 47 and 57 respectively. Mauritius also made significant strides in mobile internet speed with a ranking rise of 13 slots—to position 74—as Sudan moved up 11 slots to settle at 112.
Among Africa’s largest economies, Kenya rose by five slots to 87 and Nigeria by one position to 92 in their mobile internet speeds rankings. However, Egypt and South Africa both saw their mobile rankings fall—by six and nine slots respectively, to positions 91 and 64.
Despite tough economic conditions that saw significant rises in the cost of living in Africa, mobile network operators in both Egypt and South Africa invested in network upgrades. Their investments are expected to pay off in the future. MTN, a major mobile network operator in Africa, accelerated network investment to R17.