The Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI), an advocacy group based in Nigeria, that Zimbabwe has highest mobile data costs in the region, with prices averaging US $25.00 per gigabyte. The fifth edition of the Alliance’s annual report examines internet access trends and policies in 61 low- and middle-income countries across the globe, including in Africa, Asia, Americas and the Caribbean.
Zambia has the second-costliest data in Africa, at US $13.27 per gigabyte, followed by South Africa at US $11.33, and then Kenya, Tunisia and Nigeria, at US $4.81, US $4.00 and US $2.76, respectively. In Tanzania data retails at US $4.40, while in Mozambique it goes for US $3.30 on average. Egypt has the least expensive mobile data, at US $0.84 per gigabyte.
Lack of access to the mobile internet is a major problem blocking economic development for countries as well as for individuals. Especially in markets such as sub-Saharan Africa, many of which are termed “mobile-first,” mobile data is essential to any financial transaction. These markets are also generally low-income, and in such a budget-minded environment, relatively high prices for mobile data simply ensures that a large contingent of the population simply will not use that data. It is estimated that over one quarter of the world’s population cannot afford any data at all. And according to the A4AI report, the last five years have seen a notable slowdown in the rate of customers getting on the internet, due to data costs.
In addition to the impacts on national and regional economies and on consumers, mobile operators are themselves being hurt by their own high prices. It is in the interest of all, in particular MNOs, to find ways to lower the data prices. For operators, it would drive revenue in terms of simple dollars for gigabytes, but it would also lead to much fuller utilization of networks, which in turn would enable development and expansion of networks and greater revenue opportunities in many sectors.
We believe that operators must work together, setting aside competition as much as possible at least in the short term, to increase investment in networks, share the resultant expenses, and cooperate on termination fees. Only in this way will it be possible for countries such as Zimbabwe to reach their potential in terms of mobile internet.