By Dawit Bekele
Regional Bureau Director for Africa, Internet Society
For the last seven years, Africa’s technology players have gathered at the annual Africa Peering and Interconnection Forum (AfPIF).
It’s a rare forum that brings together the people who are at the starting point of connecting Africa. Together they exploring ways to reduce Internet connectivity costs, and grow local and regional exchange of Internet traffic.
From businesses to service providers to policy makers, AfPIF is a diverse and dedicated community who believe that we are better together.
They WANT to enhance exchange of content at local level, and enjoy lower the cost of connectivity, lower latency, and more.
Over time, AfPIF has built its reputation as the premier forum for the Internet technical community, with international and local technology businesses exploring ways to connect Africa.
At the first meeting in Nairobi, Kenya in 2010, the discussions revolved around investment in more ICT infrastructure to cover more areas. Back then, Western and Eastern Africa coasts were laying fiber optics and costs of connectivity were still high. After the cables landed, the cost of connectivity was cut but, the prices still remained high compared to other regions.
One reason was most of the local traffic was in Europe or North America.
In 2010, only 10 countries had operational IXPs. People knew that if cost of connectivity was lower, then more people and businesses would get online. This would create more local content that would encourage the development of IXPs.
AfPIF was the place to make it happen.
That first meeting was attended by over 80 participants from 20 countries. By the time the sixth meeting happened in 2015, there were 232 participants from 57 countries. The number of remote participants grew year after year to reach 1,032 at AFPIF 2015.
It is also undeniable that in the last seven year’s customers across Africa are benefiting from a faster and more affordable Internet.
This has provided more growth and opened opportunities for businesses across the continent.
In fact, even companies like Google, Akamai, and Cloudflare, are showing increased interest in the Africa. They’re exploring partnerships with the same companies that come to AfPIF. Once there, people can fix meetings with other each other, depending on interest.
This is important since many peering agreements start with a handshake. Formal agreements follow later and in some cases, no formal agreements, but peering happens.
Peering is working together for a stronger Internet.
Watch it happen:
One of AfPIF goals is to give practical solutions to challenges by bringing people together. For instance, an Engineer in Telecoms and Networks Mobility at Benin Telecoms SA participated in AfPIF 2014, and was able to link up with the Google team. After that, Google deployed the first cache in Benin at Benin Telecom.
The increased number of tech companies has resulted in market growth, job growth, greater competition among providers, direct access to national and international carriers, and bandwidth flexibility because of low latencies
The countries’ ability to attract global companies is a boost to the local IT sector as more data centers have come up, providing hosting services for applications, software and platforms, among other services.
Africa is at a tipping point. It now sits at the forefront of Internet expansion and the continent is positioned to help drive the future of the global Internet. It has a chance to leapfrog technology and constraints, and to create an Internet that helps to solve local as well as global problems.
The Internet Society understands the enormous potential for the Internet in Africa, and for the Internet to define Africa’s future.
We need you to be a part of it.
Who would you like to get together with?
This article was originally published on Internet Society’s Blog page.