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Internet Disruptions Costing Africa Circa $ 300 million

October 7, 2017

By Wallace Mawire

Technology entrepreneurs work from their computers and mobile phone, at Activspaces co-working tech hub in Douala, Cameroon Thursday, Feb. 9, 2017. Internet users in English-speaking regions lost connectivity from all three telecom internet companies, after the Cameroon government warned against anti-state comments and fake news on social media. Technology start-ups are suffering from the ban, and some travel to French-speaking cities to keep their businesses operating.Pic credit Irene Zih Fon, GPJ Cameroon

Technology entrepreneurs work from their computers and mobile phone, at Activspaces co-working tech hub in Douala, Cameroon Thursday, Feb. 9, 2017. Internet users in English-speaking regions lost connectivity from all three telecom internet companies, after the Cameroon government warned against anti-state comments and fake news on social media. Technology start-ups are suffering from the ban, and some travel to French-speaking cities to keep their businesses operating.Pic credit Irene Zih Fon, GPJ Cameroon

Internet shutdowns in Sub-Saharan Africa have
cost the region up to US$ 237 million since 2015, according to a report to
released by the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and
Southern Africa (CIPESA).

Using a newly developed framework, the report
estimates the cost of internet shutdowns in 10 African countries, and notes
that the economic losses caused by an internet disruption persist far
beyond the days on which the shutdown occurs, because network disruptions
unsettle supply chains and have systemic effects that harm efficiency
throughout the economy.

The report says that despite the increasing benefits associated with
access to the internet and
the contribution of the ICT sector to GDP in Sub-Saharan Africa, since 2015
there have been state-initiated internet disruptions in at least 12
countries in the region.

While it is clear how internet shutdowns affect users’ fundamental rights,
such as the right of access to information and freedom of expression, the
impact of disruptions on a country’s economy and citizens’ livelihoods is
rarely as clearly articulated due to a lack of verifiable data. That made
it necessary to develop a framework that can be used to estimate the
economic cost of shutdowns in SSA.

The report shows the losses in USD terms which each of the countries
studied lost during the duration of the network disruptions. The report
also shows that:

· The economic cost of an internet disruption persist far beyond the
days on which the disruption occurs because the disruption unsettle supply
chains and have systemic effects, harming efficiency throughout the economy.

· Internet disruptions, however short-lived, undermine economic
growth, disrupt the delivery of critical services, erode business
confidence, and raise a country’s risk profile

· Shutdowns have a high economic impact at micro and macro levels,
adversely affecting the livelihoods of citizens, undermining the
profitability of business enterprises, and reducing the GDP and
competitiveness of countries that implement them.

It is added that disruptions have been witnessed during national
exams as was the case in
Ethiopia, during elections in countries such as Chad, Gabon, Gambia,
Republic of Congo, and Uganda. Public protests have also led to internet
disruptions in countries like Burundi, the Central African Republic,
Cameroon, DR Congo, Ethiopia, Mali, Niger, and Togo.

Internet shutdowns have also been witnessed in countries, some of which have
very low internet penetration and usage figures. According to the ITU,
Cameroon, Uganda and Niger have internet usage percentages of 25%, 21.9%
and 4.4% respectively. The three countries have experienced internet
disruptions for 93 days, 6 days and 3 days respectively between 2016 and
2017. The significant contribution of the ICT sector and of more prevalent
internet services to the economy and society cannot be disputed. This is
more so in most African economies where the contribution of the ICT sector
to GDP is on average 5%, a contribution greater than in many countries in
Europe and Asia.

The report was launched recently at the *Forum
on Internet Freedom in Africa *which was held in Johannesburg,
South Africa.

The Forum on Internet Freedom in Africa 2017 (FIFAfrica17): *This
year, FIFAfrica17 is co-hosted by the Collaboration on International ICT
Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) and the Association for
Progressive Communication (APC). The two organisations have a history of
advocating for the advancement of digital rights in Africa and beyond. The
discussions of the forum are built around themes which engage with the 13
principles of the African Declaration on Internet Rights and Freedoms (
www.africaninternetrights.org).

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