African IXPs continue growing, investing

By Rebecca Wanjiku

The continued growth of ICT infrastructure and awareness has led to growth in the number of IXPs in Africa, and investment in more stable data center environment.

According to Africa IXP Association, the increase in number of submarine fiber optic cables and terrestrial fiber in Africa has led to increased content and eventual increase in the number of IXPs. AFIX aims to foster an enabling environment for IXPs, help them maximize their value, improve connectivity within the continent, and increase the Internet’s value for all.

“Since 2010 there has been almost 20 new IXPs; the undersea and terrestrial fibre cables have had an impact; the quality of IXPs has improved over time and with surveillance and biometric security,” said Kyle Spencer, Africa IXP Association coordinator.

The number of ports at African IXPs have increased from 136 in 2008, after a survey done by Michuki Mwangi; in 2015, AFIX conducted a benchmark survey and found there were 577 ports; in 2016, the survey identified 795 ports.

With increased number of peers, IXPs have moved to Data Centers; that provide stable connectivity with back up power connections and increased security measures. The Kenya Internet Exchange Point (KIXP) moved to the East Africa Data Center in Nairobi, providing more stability, especially during power outage.

“However this is self-reported data and often not strictly verified and so a power backup system may only last a few minutes or have a video surveillance with no video being recorded and so not fully indicative,” said Spencer, while presenting findings at the Africa Internet Summit in Nairobi.

In 2008, most IXPs were set up by ISP Associations but Spencer noted that they had transitioned to not-for-profit entities and in other cases governments had set up their own IXPs to exchange content.

Continued training, discussions and peering bilateral meeting at the Africa Peering and Interconnection Forum (AfPIF) annual meetings have helped raise awareness on the benefits of IXPs. The AXIS Project, collaboration between the Internet Society and the African Union has also been critical in the growth of IXPs in the region.

The study found that Increasing network diversity and more exchange points will see more content providers, more government networks and more enterprise networks showing up in IXPs. Most internet exchanges in our region have websites with a host name of their country code top level domains (ccTLD).

Launched in 2012 at AfPIF in Johannesburg, AFIX is a member of the Internet eXchange Federation (IX-F) since 2014 and currently serves 37 IXPs in 28 countries out of 54 African countries (according to the AU). The oldest IXP in Africa is JINX (1996) and the newest are Madagascar and Djibouti (2016).