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

A story of how dedicated people made great strides towards faster and more affordable Internet.

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This report shows how Internet Exchange Points Kenya and Nigeria have dramatically boosted their levels of locally exchanged Internet traffic.

When local traffic stays local, Internet access is faster and more affordable.

Between 2012 and 2020, the levels jumped from 30% to 70%. This has led to significant cost savings for participating networks and puts these two countries in a strong position to participate in the digital economy.

This happened because a community of passionate people on the ground – technical experts, policymakers, regulators, and businesses – embraced an essential piece of infrastructure: Internet Exchange Points (IXPs).

Our new report gives an update on a study published in 2012, which examined two of Africa’s more advanced Internet Exchange Points (IXPs) at the time – KIXP in Kenya and IXPN in Nigeria.

The jump in local traffic is a significant step towards the vision set by the peering community in Africa: for 80% of African Internet traffic to be localised.

Africa must be a strong participant in the digital economy. This is an essential blueprint for how IXPs can help make that happen.

Impact of IXPs

Eliud Kipchoge and the Ineos 1:59 Challenge

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 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. A major telecoms company provided free data so people could 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.

Then vs. Now

Kenya and Nigeria’s Internet ecosystems have changed dramatically.

Highlights from Kenya

Then

25

peering networks

8.8%

Internet users

0.4%

of mobile broadband subscribers

US$5.92

500MB prepaid data

Google Global Cache was the only Content Delivery Network

Now

56

peering networks

17.8%

Internet users

41.9%

of mobile broadband subscribers

US$2.42

500MB prepaid data

Content Delivery Networks include: Akamai, Amazon Web Services, Cloudflare, Facebook, Google Global Cache, Google Edge, Microsoft and Netflix

Highlights from Nigeria

Then

30

peering networks

16.1%

Internet users

6.8%

of mobile broadband subscribers

US$12.75

500MB prepaid data

Google Global Cache was the only Content Delivery Network

Now

71

peering networks

42%

Internet users

30.7%

of mobile broadband subscribers

US$3.27

500MB prepaid data

Content Delivery Networks include: Akamai, Amazon Web Services, Cloudflare, Facebook , Google Global Cache, Google Edge, Limelight , Microsoft and Netflix

What Next?

Increasing localised traffic above 70% is possible. To do this, a few more things need to happen:

  • Local content developers, including governments in some cases, who are hosting their content outside the country, will need to bring it home.
  • Smaller Internet service providers in the countries will need to connect to the IXPs to increase the efficiency of their connections.
  • Domestic infrastructure will have to be extended beyond the main landing point for submarine cables and into the other major population centers.