East Africa’s internet data charges are among the cheapest in Africa, according to a report released by technology think tank, Research ICT Africa.
The report, 1GB Basket Statistics, compares different prices for 1GB of daily mobile internet data in 45 out of Africa’s 53 nations, by taking into account the mean charges of the total Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in each state.
The report reveals that Tanzania charges the lowest in East Africa at Sh218, followed by Rwanda at Sh220, Kenya at Sh244, Uganda at Sh273 and Burundi Sh302 as at September 2019. The countries rank fourth, fifth, seventh, ninth and eleventh respectively in Africa with Egypt, which charges Sh121, leading the park.
North Africa’s Tunisia comes second at Sh178, while Mozambique is the third cheapest country to buy data, with 1GB costing Sh197 on average.
However, data costs remain a contentious issue on the continent, where many Africans still spend less than Sh100 a day, as food insecurity and low income ensure data is not a priority in their daily lives.
eSwatini, formerly Swaziland, had the most expensive mobile data prices in Africa in the third quarter of 2019 at Sh2,139.
Due to tough economic times, Zimbabwe follows eSwatini on the list of Africa’s highest data prices at Sh2,000 per GB. That translates to Sh100 for every 50MB of data.
The next highest was Seychelles at Sh1,787, followed by Guinea-Bissau at Sh1,695 while Chad closed the top five expensive bracket at Sh1,187.
According to the report, these charges sound high, but the truth is that they have become even more affordable, when compared to past years of the decade.
At the end of 2015, for instance, if you lived in Seychelles you would have paid Sh4,739 for 1 Gigabyte of data, while citizens of Guinea-Bissau paid Sh5,829 in 2017 and the new state of South Sudan charged Sh13,370 as it struggled with economic teething problems towards the end of 2016.
The report says West Africa's prices were variable, with low prices in Guinea (Sh220), Nigeria (Sh278) while Benin, Niger and Senegal all charged Sh339 in Quarter 3 of 2019.
The price is higher in countries such as Sierra Leone (Sh656) and Togo (Sh848), and some of the most expensive data across the continent were in West Africa — for example Guinea-Bissau (Sh1,695), Chad (Sh1187) and Mauritania (Sh978).
South Africa ranked 16th out of the 45 countries researched in terms of the most expensive data, at Sh681 per Gbyte. However, this is a lot cheaper than it was in early 2014, when 1 gigabyte of data cost Sh1,406.
According to the stats, Southern Africa had a mix of the cheapest prices in Mozambique (Sh197) and Zambia (Sh270) and the most expensive in eSwatini (Sh2,139) and Zimbabwe (Sh2,000).
South Africa was pretty average in the Southern African region, coming in slightly cheaper than neighbours Botswana (Sh887) and Namibia (Sh1,089) but more expensive than Lesotho (Sh409).
Eight countries — Comoros, Liberia, Mali, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Djibouti and Eritrea — did not have any information available for the third quarter of 2019, and were not included in the overall list.
Liberia is an interesting market, as data prices have plummeted there during the past few years.
The report shows that between the first quarter of 2015 and the first quarter of 2016, 1 Gbyte of data would have cost Sh1,200 but that dropped to Sh500 in the second quarter of 2016 and remained constant until the end of 2018.
According to the World Bank, the global cost of 1 GB of data target is 2 percent of monthly income, but East Africans who comparatively enjoy affordable mobile internet, consume 4 percent of their income to purchase data bundles.
As technological disruptions shake industries across the world, African countries appear to move at different speeds, and this is a huge challenge for the continent. Strive Masiyiwa, founder of African technology and energy group Econet, says the solution lies in opening borders for a unified tech regulation.
“African governments must work together, and speak as one technology bloc regarding continental data regulation,” he said.
“These countries need to open up their borders for one another because they will need each other to move at the same pace. Data should be affordable to each nation so that none is left behind.”