VENTURES AFRICA – At the recently concluded Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Rwanda was ranked the African country with the most affordable internet by the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI), This, however, raised eyebrows over how a country with just 12 million people will beat economic powerhouses like Nigeria, Morocco, and Kenya, all of which have populations that are double or more Rwanda’s.
“The country’s broadband connectivity has become a key competitive differentiator in the global economy,” said Jean-Philibert Nsengimana, Rwanda’s Minister of Youth and ICT. “We have made significant progress already for the widespread adoption of ICT, particularly in sectors such as health, education, agriculture, as well as business and finance,”
Across the countries surveyed by A4AI, a fixed broadband connection costs the average citizen approximately 40 percent of their monthly income, eight times more than the affordability target set by the UN Broadband Commission in 2011. Mobile broadband is cheaper but still double the UN threshold, averaging 10 percent of monthly income — about as much as developing country households spend on housing, an A4AI statement revealed.
However, Rwanda wants to become a knowledge-driven and middle income economy before the year 2020, and all of these are tied to the growth of ICT, which it believes will fast-track its transformation process from its darker days following a brutal 1994 genocide.
When the country’s current macroeconomic situation is sized up, it is easy to see why data rates are becoming more affordable. There is an impressive amount of political will that has been invested in creating the enabling environment for such developments. In February, after government intervention, a Rwandan 4G service provider slashed its prices by 70 percent, and significantly disrupted industry-wide price dynamics.
Apart from this, the country boasts of one of the fastest growing mobile markets in the continent, an attractive incentive for investors. Its economy isn’t doing bad either as its GDP has continued to grow at a minimum of 7 percent in the past 7 years. This, coupled with a favourable ease-of-doing-business ranking makes the east African country a good base for foreign Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and other firms that seek to set-up in Africa; the resultant effect is a healthy degree of competition, which is always good for customer service.
By Emmanuel Iruobe