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Report toolkit for journalists

Anchoring the African Internet Ecosystem: Lessons from Kenya and Nigeria’s Internet Exchange Points Growth

Key documents

The new report explains how Internet Exchange Points have played a critical role in expanding Internet access and lowering connectivity costs in Kenya and Nigeria. It reveals how, in the wake of COVID-19, African countries can take the steps needed to bring faster, more affordable Internet connectivity to the continent.

Full Report

Anchoring the African Internet Ecosystem: Lessons from Kenya and Nigeria’s Internet Exchange Points Growth

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Press release

Internet Society Report Highlights Opportunity to Advance Digital Economy in Africa

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Comment from Michuki Mwangi, Internet Society Senior Director

Strengthening Africa’s Internet Economy, by Michuki Mwangi, Internet Society Senior Director, Internet Technology and Development

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Stories and takeaways from the report

These are key hooks from the report, to spark story ideas. For each story angle we’ve pulled out some key quotes from the report which can be used directly. We also tell you where in the report to find further detail.

1. Internet infrastructure success in Kenya and Nigeria: Kenya and Nigeria have achieved remarkable success in strengthening their Internet ecosystems due to IXPs.

Kenya and Nigeria have achieved remarkable success in strengthening their Internet ecosystems due to IXPs.

  • “Both countries have experienced an increase in the number of Internet users and the amount of Internet usage, an increase in international and domestic Internet capacity, a local presence of the largest international content providers and content delivery networks, and corresponding growth in the number of IXPs.” p7
  • “In both countries the ratio of localized traffic flipped from approximately 30% local and 70% international at the time of the first study, to 70% local and 30% international in 2020.” p20
  • “The progress in Kenya and Nigeria since 2012 has been significant. It highlights how an IXP can play a key role in developing the Internet infrastructure, along with the role that all stakeholders can play in growing their country’s Internet ecosystem.” p33

Focusing on Kenya:

  • “During the past eight years, the percentage of Kenyan mobile broadband subscribers has increased 100-fold to nearly 42% of the population, while the price of data has decreased by 50%.” p13

More details and further examples on p9 of the report.

Focusing on Nigeria:

  • “The percentage of Nigerian Internet users has increased from 16% to 42% of the population; and there has been a substantial increase in mobile broadband subscribers, based in part on a considerable drop in the price of data.” p16
  • “Nigeria’s increase in traffic is even more remarkable than that in Kenya—from 300 Mbit/s traffic in 2012 to a peak traffic rate of 125 Gbps in 2020” p17

                                   

More details and further examples on p16 of the report.

2. A blueprint for other countries to follow: Success in Kenya and Nigeria provides a blueprint for other African countries to follow to strengthen their Internet ecosystems.
  • “Stakeholders in other African countries have an unparalleled opportunity to learn from the experiences in Kenya and Nigeria—both countries have made tremendous strides since 2012 toward strong, healthy, Internet ecosystems, and are reaping the rewards.” p29
  • “This history of positive steps in Kenya and Nigeria and set of future actions should act as a blueprint for other countries to develop their Internet ecosystems and move through the stages of development. Together, as countries began to localize increasing amounts of content, the 80/20 goal of the Internet Society and African Internet community can be realized.” p33

The report includes the Internet Society’s recommendations for Kenya and Nigeria, and developmental best practices for all countries seeking to increase their localized traffic exchange between Internet service providers and to attract content providers for more efficient content delivery through their IXPs.

Here’s the list of six recommendations:

  1. Leverage the relationship between IXPs and carrier-neutral data centers.
  2. Ensure sound governance of the IXP.
  3. Create economies of scale to lower costs.
  4. Increase awareness among small ISPs and local content providers.
  5. Enable aggregation.
  6. Government action to broaden the market.                    

More detail and further explanations of these recommendations on p29-32 of the report.                     

3. IXPs can help provide cheaper, better, faster Internet for Africa: Report shows IXPs have a key role to play in enabling better Internet services, with real results in terms of cost and access.
  • “IXPs are meeting points through which networks exchange Internet traffic. By enabling local traffic to remain local, they effectively lower the cost and latency of exchanging traffic and accessing content. In summary, their use facilitates a cheaper, better, and faster Internet.” p8
  • “The general benefits of IXPs, as measured in the Internet Society’s 2012 study, all flow from one fundamental fact: without an IXP, ISPs must use their international Internet Protocol (IP) transit to exchange global Internet traffic, content hosted abroad, and local traffic. The costly process, in which local traffic flows to an interconnection point outside the country and back again, is commonly called tromboning (after the shape of the musical instrument).” p8
  • “In both countries, the latency of traffic exchange remains less than 10ms, and as low as 2ms. This is a direct result of no longer exchanging traffic or accessing content in Europe or beyond—no longer traversing that length of fiber and its high number of network hops. The lower latency now applies to all the international content newly available locally in both countries.” p18

Detailed breakdown of cost savings on p18 of the report.

4. Covid-19 makes better digital infrastructure more important than ever: Digital infrastructure improvements meant Nigeria and Kenya have been better able to support the huge increase in Internet use sparked by Covid-19.
  • “the present COVID-19 crisis magnifies the benefit in enabling increases of traffic to accommodate the changes brought about by social distancing and lockdowns. “ p33                                
  • “The value of these IXPs, as well as the ecosystems of access and content that has risen around them, has been validated by the current COVID-19 crisis. The growing reliance on the Internet to replace face- to-face interactions during lockdowns and social distancing has increased use of the IXPs and produced large spikes in peak throughput that would have been difficult to accommodate without the IXPs inherent resilience and local capacity.” p7
5. Collaboration not just technology: Nigeria and Kenya examples show that trust and collaboration are key to the success of any technology infrastructure development.
  • “Each country possessed a strong base for growth, including an existing IXP that was well-managed and trusted by local stakeholders. Both countries had static international content available via a Google Global Cache, but no other locally available content. However, each had the necessary foundation of trust and collaboration and the corresponding Internet infrastructure to grow as a hub.” p4 report           
  • “Getting to this point meant following a systematic path of stakeholder relationship building and infrastructure development.” p4
  • “One constant across the two countries is in the governance of the IXPs. Both have the same chief executive officers (CEOs) as they did in 2012: Fiona Asonga at KIXP and Muhammed Rudman at IXPN. Both CEOs are overseen by a board of members, and both have built strong teams that help them to operate and develop their IXPs. A number of stakeholders in Nigeria commented positively on the strong and steady leadership at IXPN. The importance of solid management and governance cannot be understated—it is a critical component of attracting networks to the IXP, due to the trust needed to rely on the IXP for traffic exchange.” p20
6. Industry has a key role to play: Industry has a significant role to play in the evolution of Internet ecosystem.
  • “The industry has played a significant role in the evolution of the Internet ecosystem in both countries. This is true for Internet access infrastructure as well as content.” p23
  • “In terms of access infrastructure, new submarine cable cables have been and continue to be deployed as capacity prices fall, which has lowered the cost of IP transit to fill edge caches and enabled international content providers to build out PoPs in the countries. Internet access is also more available and affordable, increasing the demand for Internet services and creating economies of scale for providers. These actions all contribute to an enabling environment for improvements in the Internet ecosystem.” p23
  • “Kenya already enjoys special data pricing of services such as Facebook, WhatsApp, and YouTube—usage of these services does not count against the subscriber’s data plan. This is made possible by a local presence, where ISPs can access the edge cache or PoP directly using peering instead of expensive international IP transit.” p23

Further detail on p23 of the report.

7. Government has a key role to play in the evolution of Internet ecosystems. 
  • “Government policy and regulation has a significant impact on the development of a country’s Internet ecosystem. The regulator can determine the nature of entry and competition in telecom markets, including fixed and mobile broadband and backhaul, and the subsequent level and focus of investment in those markets. In addition, government policy directly effects the willingness of content providers to host content in a country. Finally, broader policies effect the affordability of services.” p24
  • The respective governments also played a role by developing the Internet sectors and adopting data-protection policies, thereby reinforcing an environment of trust and welcoming further local-content hosting. p4
  • “Reliable and affordable power is a key cost constraint—one estimate provided to us claimed that hosting costs three times more in Lagos than in Europe. Governments can help address these challenges. In addition, encouraging government services and large enterprises to host locally will help to create economies of scale for data centers and increase the amount of local content. Governments can also develop data protection policies that will help to create trust for hosting content and services locally. “ p32

Further detail on p24 and p32 of the report.

8. IXPs give exponential benefits that stand the test of time: Growth of IXPs in Nigeria and Kenya, and the cost savings gained, were exponential
  • “The growth of the IXPs in each country was exponential, as were the cost savings from exchanging traffic locally rather than using expensive international transit. In Kenya, KIXP grew from carrying a peak traffic of 1 Gigabit per second (Gbps) in 2012 to 19 Gbps in 2020, with cost savings quadrupling to USD six million per year. In Nigeria, IXPN grew from carrying just 300 Megabits per second (Mbps) to peak traffic of 125 Gbps in 2020, and the cost savings increased forty times to USD 40 million per year.” p9
  • “The main benefits of the IXPs in Kenya and Nigeria that were quantified in 2012—decreased latency, cost savings, and increased revenue for ISPs—not only hold true today, they are magnified by an exponential increase in demand.” p18

See p9 of the report for a detailed breakdown of how these benefits accumulate.

9. Next step for Kenya and Nigeria: more local content.
  • “As shown below, in the 2012 report, both Kenya and Nigeria had achieved Stage 1 and were on the cusp of Stage 2 with very little localized content. Today, both countries have achieved Stage 2 and are on the cusp of Stage 3 with essentially all consequential, international content hosted locally. In order to fully achieve Stage 3, local content must be developed and hosted locally, as well.” p10
  • “There are, however, two groups who are not participating fully in the local ecosystems of their countries: local content providers and small ISPs. Their increased participation would not only provide them with benefits in terms of increased users and usage, but would most certainly push both countries into Stage 3 of development and help fulfill the 80/20 goal of the Internet Society, a true milestone in the development of the Internet in Africa.” p27
  • “Local content providers are still hosting their content abroad with large companies. For instance, they might purchase a domain name (e.g., .com) from a big registrar, such as GoDaddy, and take an attractive offer for hosting with unlimited capacity at prices that could not be matched at home. Or a content provider might work with a local developer, who aggregates the websites they are developing and hosts them outside the country, again, where it costs less. By one estimate in Nigeria, it is three times more expensive to host locally than abroad” p27

From the recommendations:

  • “Local enterprises should understand the benefits of locally hosted content and cloud services, including decreased latency, resilience in case of submarine cable cuts, and a lower cost of support using local services. This awareness is best developed via capacity building for the industry, and by demonstrating the benefits with existing and new clients. “ p30

 

Case study: How millions were able to watch Kenyan marathon record win on YouTube

In villages and cities all across Kenya, in chop bars and beach bars, hotel lobbies and community centres and private homes, Kenyans waited with anticipation to witness a historic event. 

Eliud Kipchoge was about to break a world record and finish in the Ineos Challenge. By the time it was over he would become the first person in recorded history to run a sub-two-hour marathon.

Had this incredible feat happened a few years before, Kenyans probably couldn’t have seen it happen, and certainly not in such large numbers – the Internet simply wouldn’t have been fast enough to keep up, or been accessible to many people.

But thanks to the power of the Internet and efficiency of peering, it was live streamed for all to see. The YouTube livestream was accessible from the Google Point of Presence (Pop) in Kenya, through Internet Providers connected directly or via the Internet Exchange Point (IXP). This made it possible for a major telecoms company to provide free data for people to watch the historic event free of charge. It was also a record-breaker in another way: it marked the highest ever amount of YouTube traffic in the country.

More detail in p19 of the report.

Media resources

Happy people at the Lubumbashi IXP launch. They are all pointing to the IXP itself
Lubumbashi IXP Workshop and LUBIX Launch, 21 – 25 October 2019, Lubumbashi, DRC. ©Internet Society


Africa DataCentres keyrings on a desk on day two of the 10th annual African Peering and Interconnection Forum (AfPIF) in Balaclava, Mauritius on 21 August 2019.© Nyani Quarmyne/ Panos Pictures for Internet Society


Andrew Alston of Liquid Telecom delivering a presentation entitled “The African Internet in 2030” at the 10th annual African Peering and Interconnection Forum (AfPIF) in Balaclava, Mauritius on 21 August 2019.© Nyani Quarmyne/ Panos Pictures for Internet Society

Further information

Contact info (as per press release)

Allesandra deSantillana
Internet Society: desantillana@isoc.org

Further reading