AfPIF 2023 Plenary Day 1 Summary

The 12th edition of the African Peering and Interconnection Forum (AfPIF) kicked off its Opening Ceremony and Plenary Day 1 with a keynote presentation on African Network Geography by Patrick Christian, Principal Analyst at TeleGeography.

Global network trends show that, from 2018 to 2022, Africa had 45% IP bandwidth growth and forecasted to experience a 42% growth from 2022 to 2029, compared to 32% globally.

Emmanuel Kwarteng, Country Manager of MainOne, Ghana, spoke about ‘transcending boundaries’ – how peering plays a critical role in enhancing the efficiency of the digital economy. The rich and vibrant culture of Accra has galvanized the community to work hard to advance the Internet and peering, and to drive value for end-users and a shared vision for a more connected Africa.

Michael Nfodzo of Ghana Internet Service Providers (GISPA) identified AfPIF as a crucial conference – addressing issues around the exchange of traffic and to promote keeping local traffic local. Although the Ghana Internet eXchange (GIX) has seen growth in ISPs connecting, there are still challenges in keeping traffic local. To address this challenge, there’s a need to revisit discussions around market reforms, IXPs should ensure they peer with local IXPs.

The work of the Internet Society in supporting systems – in particular IXPs – to keep local exchange of traffic is extremely important. Internet Society’s ambitious 50/50 Vision plan for localizing internet traffic will play a significant role in aiding regional efforts.

A multistakeholder, top-down-bottom-up approach between CDNs, IXPs and ISPs is required to improve Internet services and ensure a better Internet for all.

Professor Nii Quaynor in his speech highlighted operational challenges in Ghana, particularly brought to light by the COVID pandemic. With 60% of Africa’s population under 25 years, much can be done to enable and uplift them to care for and protect the Internet. Education and initiatives can play a key role in bridging the digital divide. Equally, regional NOGs are a very important part of the ecosystem, as are IXPs – a critical infrastructure in keeping costs down, reducing latency and helping the community by providing affordable Internet services.

There is no doubt that Africa’s ecosystem is evolving rapidly. MainOne reports that there is an 188% increase in networks registered, from 799 networks in 2013 to 2,304 in 2023.

There is a 43% increase in the number of network operators exchanging traffic with other networks, and in 2022, Africa’s total inbound international Internet traffic was 26.9 Tbps.

However, there is room for improvement to address challenges and to equip the young African population in building an inclusive Internet.

Looking ahead, some of the challenges in the industry include increased competition, redundancy, and access to capacity.

In Ghana, much is being done to ensure a robust Internet ecosystem with cybersecurity and data protection at the forefront of safeguarding initiatives and the implementation of ICT projects to decrease the digital divide.

The Minister of Communications and Digitalization, Hon. Ursula Owusu-Ekuful in her speech spoke about ‘planting seeds for the future’ – providing training in programming, coding, and basic ICT skills for young girls, addressing the digital skills gap, enhancing digital literacy by connecting the unconnected, and providing Internet services to rural and remote areas with the Ghana Rural Telephony and Digital Inclusion Project (GRT&DIP).

The African IXP Association recently achieved legal formalization, elected its first board of directors, and held its first AGM in Ghana. Kyle Spencer, the AFIX Board Chair says

“AfPIF is not just another conference. It is the culmination of our collective efforts to drive Africa’s digital transformation.”

Hon. Ursula Owusu-Ekuful announced the formation of a neutral shared infrastructure, delivering nationwide 4G and exclusive 5G services, provided by a consortium of network operators and private investors.

We heard about community initiatives to assist peering professionals with the Peering Toolbox and the addition of ‘campus’ and carrier’ objects in PeeringDB.

Additionally, there was an announcement of the OneAfrica Connect Initiative–a forward looking initiative representing community and unity, using one logo to represent all companies and interests in the ecosystem.

The Amsterdam Internet Exchange highlighted the reasons why they are investing in Africa–working with local partners to add value to local initiatives such as with Telecom Egypt, and an MoU with Main One to further manage the ecosystem and Internet Exchange in Djibouti.

Day one served to highlight why Ghana is the black star of Africa. Make the best out of AfPIF and Accra in the following days!