Internet speeds across Africa are still far below the global minimum standard

Internet moving at a slow pace.
Internet moving at a slow pace.
Image: EPA/Kim Ludbrook
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It would take more than a day to download a high definition movie of 7.5 gigabytes (GB) in countries with the slowest internet speeds in the world. It turns out most of those countries are in Africa, data from a global broadband speed league shows.

The speed gaps between various countries remains very wide as the five fastest countries have download speeds which are around 40 times faster than the five slowest. Singapore ranks as the highest on the broadband speed league with 55.13 megabits per second (Mbps) while with war-torn Yemen  props up the list with meager average speed of just 0.34 Mbps.

The global speed league was compiled by using data collected over the course of a year until last May following a research partnership between several partners including New America’s Open Technology Institute, Google Open Source Research and Princeton University’s PlanetLab.

In general, African countries do not fare well as none of the 39 ranked African countries achieved average speeds above 10Mbps—deemed to be the minimum speed required by consumers “to fully participate in a digital society” by UK’s telecoms regular, Ofcom. Globally, of the 189 countries ranked, 139 countries have failed to achieve that target. Of the lowest ranked 10 countries, six are African.

This research focuses on fixed line broadband tests which tends to put African countries at an added disadvantage with infrastructure challenges, hence slower speeds. Some African countries do much better with mobile internet comparisons. Kenya’s mobile internet speed ranking is higher than some advanced economies including the US and is 14th out of 130 countries, according to a report by content delivery network Akamai.

The reality of slow internet speeds is crucial in several African countries with fledgling tech hubs and ecosystems. In Lagos, home to a $2 billion tech ecosystem—the continent’s most valuable, internet speed and access is often cited as a major limitation by startup founders and their prospective customers. Beyond tech startups, regular Africans also find difficult to plug into the digital economy.

For better context, the report also measures internet speed in each country by how long it’ll take to download a HD movie with a size of 7.5 GB. While it’ll take less than 20 minutes in Singapore, it’ll take more than a day in DR Congo, Burkina Faso and Gabon, the three worst ranked African countries. While in Kenya, the highest ranked African country, it’ll take nearly two hours, it’ll take a minimum of 18 hours in the worst ranked African countries.