AFPIF 2023 Plenary Day 3 Summary

Africa is on Its Own Journey

The number of participants attending AFPIF has grown over the years, and this year, in Ghana, is the highest yet, with 400 participants, equalling a 28% increase from last year. 73% of the total participants were newcomers, 27% were returning delegates.

Day three opened with a presentation from Liquid, a CDN with a large global presence and digital infrastructure investment in Africa spanning over 20 years.

In their presentation From Mombasa to Kinshasa, they recognized that there is a stark and widening gulf between leading and lagging countries.

Although there are technology and civil engineering challenges to solve, Liquid will connect millions of Africans by addressing gaps in the First and Middle-Mile.

We know from data presented over the last three days the African digital economy is growing exponentially, and peering capacity has seen significant growth.

NapAfrica presented data showing 10 years of network growth and peering in Africa, from 132 in 2013 to 2,257 in 2023. In 2010, there were 30 sub-sea cables in service, and by year-end 2022, there were 60. With the addition of planned cables, there will be approximately 71 cable systems by 2025.

South Africa has the largest share of Autonomous System Numbers (ASNs), followed by Nigeria. The average Internet download speed in Sub-Saharan Africa was highest in Rwanda, South Africa, and Madagascar in 2022, with registered Internet speeds of 52.17 Mbps, 28.62 Mbps, and 19 Mbps, respectively.

The effects of high prices on the connectivity value chain are poor Internet performance, less local content caching, less local IXPs, and peering and sub-optimal end-user experience.

Internet Society’s report on ‘A New Tool to Measure Internet Resilience’ reveals the aggregated effect of multiple influences on national Internet adoption and penetration at macro level.

There was a lively panel discussion about collaboration between same-market IXPs.

Differences in the varying types of IXPs in Africa can be attributed to how they were set up–originally by telecoms and now increasingly by data centers.

IXPs can also be categorized by the following:

  • not-for-profit associations
  • managed by universities and research networks,
  • managed or sustained by governments, or
  • provided by co-location providers
  • private companies
  • consortia (largely applying to European models of IXPs)

There is also diversity on the technical side: Europe is looking at value-added services, fintech, enterprises, and marketplaces. In Africa, although there are opportunities for collaboration between IXPs, progress is impeded by barriers.

In Africa, one of the most important barriers to collaboration is a lack of trust. There is room to identify shared areas of cooperation and establish healthy and necessary competition in the interconnection space for all stakeholders. IXPs can collaborate to educate regulators, educate networks, and grow a better ecosystem.

Success factors can differ from IXP to IXP–from membership size, peers, training, and other value-added services. Areas of shared collective risk in Africa were identified as outside of the IXP community–challenges with regulators and international IXPs entering local markets.

Regional benchmarking by AFIX through the IXPDB shows that out of 424 IXPs who have automated data uploaded to the IXPDB, 25 were in Africa, and 12 IXPs are publishing traffic data.

The African community has room to grow and shape its community autonomously. AFIX can play an integral role in shaping the direction of collaboration between IXPs, by identifying shared areas of interest, acting as a focal point to steer best practice, and facilitating trust between IXPs and the wider community.

It has been a productive few days in Ghana, and we close the curtain on AfPIF 2023 with a quote from Equinix:

“Africa’s digital economies are on their own journey; it doesn’t have to retrace paths taken or revisit the mistakes made elsewhere in the world.”

AfPIF 2024 will take place in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo. We look forward to welcoming the ever-growing community to this vibrant city.