The high price of mobile data in Africa

Five of the 10 most expensive countries to buy mobile data are in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the recently published findings of a study by Cable.co.uk which sought to find out the cost of 1GB of data in 233 countries.

The 5 countries are- Saint Helena, with the most expensive rate for 1 GB averaging $41.06; It is followed by São Tomé and Príncipe where 1 GB costs $29.49, Botswana – $15.55, Togo – $12.94 and Seychelles – $12.66.

At the other end of the spectrum, Libya and Ghana lead the continent with the cheapest average cost for 1GB of data at $0.61 each. However, despite being the cheapest on the continent, the two countries rank 40th and 41st respectively in the world. The other top 5 countries in the continent are Somalia, Morocco and Nigeria with $0.63, $0.69 and $0.61 as the respective average prices for 1 GB.

For context, Israel, which has the cheapest average cost of 1GB in the world at $0.04, is 15 times cheaper than the cheapest plans in Africa.

Commenting on the report, Dan Howdle, Consumer Telecoms Analyst at Cable.co.uk, said: “At the more expensive end of the list we have countries where often the infrastructure is not great but also where consumption is very low. People often buy data packets of a few tens of megabytes at a time, which makes a gigabyte a relatively large amount of data and therefore expensive to buy.

Howdle’s comment highlights the importance of economies of scale in the quest to significantly reduce the cost of mobile data for Africans. If the demand for mobile data continues to increase, it is very likely that the continent will see more investment in infrastructure by telecom operators and big tech companies, which will most likely lead to lower data prices.

Although data from Statista shows that the number of internet users in Africa has increased to 565 million in 2022, six times more than in 2010, the internet penetration rate on the continent in December 2021 is still only 43.1%, more than 20 percentage points lower than the global average of 66.2%.

With the use of smartphones on the continent also on the rise, cheaper mobile data could help the continent make major strides in getting on par with the rest of the world in terms of internet usage.

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