Although the performance of Africa’s mobile networks over the past decade has been remarkable, the telecommunications sector in the rest of the world has also evolved rapidly. Many countries now regard broadband Internet as central to their long-term economic development strategies, and many companies realize that the use of ICT is the key to maintaining profitability. In Africa, however, the Internet is still in its infancy. In most countries, access is limited and slow. Where broadband is available, it is typically very expensive—far beyond the financial means of the majority of Africans. Ensuring that networks are capable of delivering broadband Internet access at affordable prices is the next major challenge on the horizon for policy makers.
This report is about that challenge and others. Chapters 2 and 3 describe the recent history of the telecommunications market in Africa; they cover such issues as prices, access, the performance of the networks, and the regulatory reforms that have triggered much of the investment. This part of the book compares network performance across the region and tries to explain why some countries have moved so much more quickly than others in providing affordable telecommunications services.
Chapter 4 explores the financial side of the telecommunications revolution in Africa and details how the massive investments have been financed and which companies have most influenced the sector.
Chapter 5 deals with the future of the sector, addressing some of the main policy questions that it faces: How far will the expansion of mobile voice networks go under the current policy regime? How much of the population is likely to be living outside the region’s commercially viable zones? Is it commercially viable to provide broadband Internet to broad segments of the population, in addition to large businesses and high-income individuals? Is there any way in which broadband Internet will develop into a mass-market service in Africa?
The final chapter synthesizes the main chapters of the book and presents policy recommendations intended to drive the sector forward.