I swear. I had no clue what to write today. I thought about today’s topic for most of yesterday. I rolled up my sleeves and thought of the best possible way of approaching this. My brain recorded a blank. I wanted to ask Google. My heart said no. So I slept off with no idea on how I’d handle this. I woke up at 5:30am still with no clue.
Then my heart heard a voice. (I stole that line from Nobu’s blog.)
I reached out to a few colleagues who have used the internet in different countries on this continent. I asked for their two cents on the availability, access, affordability and accountability of internet service provision in those countries.
These are their thoughts. I’ve done very little editing to maintain the authenticity of their words.
Stephen – Kenya. A singer with a vocal range Beyonce would die to hear.
You guy, internet here in the urban centres (4G) is readily available and affordable. Airtel, Telkom and Safaricom all provide 4G internet which is quite fast and so as they compete. We are happy because the prices go down, lots of offers for daily bundles, weekly bundles, and monthly bundles. There is a bundle for everyone with as little as 10 bob a day so yeah, internet is affordable (not on Safaricom of course) and readily available. So I’ve answered this question mostly in relation to handset users.
Internet in homes is starting to be a big thing now. Prices for wireless connection in homes has started coming down with increased competition.
Again, it’s quite easy to get wifi in your house, guys have those small portable routers that you walk around with in your pocket.
A lot of news consumption happens on social media (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram), so the youth are watching less and less of TV. Media houses in Kenya have increased their presence on social media because with accessible internet, people are increasingly spending more time on their phones.
Benjy – East African. This homeboy has lived in all five countries in East Africa. This is what he says about the internet in Burundi and Rwanda.
So generally internet is cheaper in Burundi, primarily for two reasons: regulatory environment keeps it low-cost and the two majority players (Econet & Lumitel) compete ferociously for a very small market of about 3-4 million subscribers that can afford internet bundles alone. The access is typically primarily urban and even 4G is not really highly accessible in the capital city. You can basically get 1.5GB per day for the equivalent of 3,000 UGX. Imagine that!
Rwanda, while strong on infrastructure is a little more costly because regulation keeps the cost high. Internet providers (MTN & Airtel) are spending quite a significant amount of money to grow their infrastructure spread on their network. There’s of course a lot more access than Burundi but at a higher cost. Speeds are relative to be fair, more 3G than 4G.
Bottom-line – governments control costs and access to the internet way more than we think!! Tsk! (Benjy is the only person I’ve met who uses the exclamation Tsk!)
Romin – My Ugandan buddy who studied and lived in Egypt
Internet in Egypt is available and affordable depending on where you live. The city [Cairo] is big so for us foreigners who could not afford houses in nice places it was a bit of a hustle to get a good connection. Especially in old parts of the city where internet lines were unavailable. Cairo is a big city and they keep expanding and for all new places they have cables laid in all of them and it’s good. At the time I left, we had managed to get a connection of 8Mbs with a neighbor so we were sharing it and it was good.
Overall, it’s available and very affordable. Especially in the newer parts of the city.
Even mobile internet from telecom companies was quite cheap and reliable. I found it quite hard to adjust when I came back [to Uganda]. The cost of internet in Uganda was ridiculous. They were selling 10MBs of data on these networks and to me that was crazy. I was used to buying monthly bundles of 10GB but here it looked like that was reserved for the rich. The cost has dropped significantly in Uganda since 2017 which is a positive step.
Racheal – My international Ugandan friend who works in Djibouti
In Djibouti, you have to go to the telecom company to be registered for a SIM card which doesn’t come with any Internet. Due to monopoly of the telecom company, internet is expensive. As long as you have airtime, even if you have not subscribed for data bundles and by mistake you put on the data icon, your money is taken.
You’re not warned when your internet bundle expires. They immediately embark on your airtime.
The cheapest bundle is 500 Djibouti francs. This is equal to 10k Ugx [approx. 2.7 USD] where you are given 1GB which you have to use within three days.
Joel – My other international Ugandan friend who has so many phone numbers. He’s a student at University of Cape Town, South Africa
Now I am not better placed to advise on the internet service providers in South Africa because I haven’t used any.
For my case almost everywhere there is WiFi, everywhere on campus, private homes like where I stay and even student residences. So they help cut that expense burden from students.
Similarly, almost all workplaces have WiFi too so it’s rare for people to use mobile data instead.
However, South Africa has a huge inequality gap. Cape Town is high end but there are places all over the country I guess where these WiFi fantasies don’t reach and people use mobile data
Ronnie – Ugandan who has stayed in Morocco for a little while
I got a simcard with free 2GB at the airport. WiFi is great. The internet is very good. It’s fast. I think their internet is faster because they are beneficiaries of the cable networks under the sea.
Larry – Ugandan. Lived and studied at the University of Namibia for 4 years, probably has a kid he left there. (I’m kidding. Don’t come for me Larry.) Larry is the guy behind the concept of this blog. He’s the brain behind the simple look and feel of this blog, the guy who advised me on why he thinks it’s good for the pictures on this blog to appear the way they do on. He’s the one who came up with the tagline, Ernest Unfiltered. That’s why you find some silly posts on this site. The next time you find crazy ish on this blog, blame it on Larry, not me.
I couldn’t reach him on phone today. He was offline as well. Maybe he’s joined his zombie friends.
I call up three other Ugandan colleagues that I know who worked in Namibia. Their phones were off. What’s with these Ugandan-Namibians and their phones being off?
I finally get a breakthrough at my fifth attempt.
OJ – Ugandan who worked on a project in Namibia for six weeks
The internet in Namibia is fine. It’s affordable if you have their money. It’s much is cheaper, more reliable and faster than what we have here in Uganda.
I don’t remember many WiFi spots.
Pacifique – Rwanda, a buddy I’ve not seen since October 2015
The internet in Rwanda is easily available and accessible in the whole country. It is also affordable at all levels but when it comes accountability, there still a lot of work to do.
Anthonia – Nigeria. Her faith can part oceans.
Access to the internet is a lot better than it was even as recently as 5-7 years ago. It’s still not as fast as it could be, which may be due to the sheer volume of consumers. I personally believe that affordability is still an issue.
Unfortunately, governance/regulation is yet to strike effectively on that matter given the large customer base which should ideally guarantee much lower prices than are being charged.
Accountability currently remains a myth, which is another thing that the regulating body has yet to hammer on. Availability is not too bad, though there are often many issues with network connections.
Ernest – Uganda. Owner of this blog and writer (more like copy paster) of this post
4G is on the rise. However, the speeds are not as advertised by the service providers.
Internet is accessible on mobile handsets. It’s available. All major telecom networks have data bundles that sometimes run out so fast before you can blink. There are WiFi spots around Kampala. Some spots around streets like John Babiiha Avenue have WiFi connectivity as well.
However, the OTT tax (which we call Social Media tax) has become an additional expense to access of social media platforms in Uganda. Some people have resorted to using VPN apps to use social media.
There is also easy access for those who want to have WiFi in their homes.
I reached out to more people. As their thoughts come through, I’ll update this post. Or I’ll put up another post, a part II of this.