Looking across Africa, a discrepancy shows itself. Nigeria, with all its problems, has 30% of its population online. Kenya, once a tech backwater, has a 74% Internet penetration. And Senegal? It was once a leader in Internet penetration in Africa and now just 16% of Senegal’s population is digital.
Wondering why Senegal is such a laggard, Google commissioned a study through Balancing Act. The findings of that study are summarized in “Obstacles and Opportunities for the democratization of broadband in Senegal.
The report identifies a few issues, the most critical of which are rigid licensing and weak regulation. These two issues have resulted in the incumbent operator holding a de facto monopoly on access to the national fiber infrastructure and the copper lines into households. This lack of competition has kept data prices high and inaccessible to many Senegalese.
To buttress this point, the report compares the system in Senegal to what obtains in Kenya and South Africa. The report shows that it was indeed the introduction of liberal licensing regime in Kenya and South Africa that made it possible for more operators to come into the market, and increased competition.
Balancing Act proposes several key changes, two of which are:
- Internet suppliers must be authorized to build their own infrastructure and compete against incumbents.
- Government should encourage competition and transparency in international capacity by enforcing existing but until now ignored regional regulation.