Internet Exchange Points crucial for lowering connectivity costs in Kenya and Nigeria

A report published by Internet Society Highlights the opportunity to advance digital economy in Africa

The report by the Internet Society explains the steps African countries can take to bring faster and less expensive Internet connectivity to the continent. The report illustrates how better connectivity represents a key opportunity for countries to continue to develop more resilient digital economies.

Entitled “Anchoring the African Internet Ecosystem: Lessons from Kenya and Nigeria’s Internet Exchange Points Growth,” the report reveals how a vibrant Internet ecosystem is critical to bringing faster, and more affordable Internet to Africa.

Internet exchange points (IXPs) are locations where Internet service providers (ISPs) and other network operators meet and exchange Internet traffic. They are a critical piece of technical infrastructure that improves Internet access by keeping Internet traffic local. Without a local IXP, Internet service providers have to use expensive international Internet connectivity to exchange and access content (which is usually hosted abroad). Allowing traffic to remain local results in faster and more affordable Internet access.

The report launched today, gives an update on a study published by the Internet Society 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 growth of the IXPs in each country was exponential, as were the cost savings from exchanging traffic locally rather than using expensive international transit. In Kenya, KIXP grew from carrying peak traffic of 1 Gigabit per second (Gbps) in 2012 to 19 Gbps in 2020, with cost savings quadrupling to USD six million per year. In Nigeria, IXPN grew from carrying just 300 Megabits per second (Mbps) to peak traffic of 125 Gbps in 2020, and cost savings increased forty times to USD 40 million per year.

Kenya and Nigeria are in a better position than ever before to cope with – and contribute to – the digital revolution that COVID-19 has accelerated as the Internet becomes a lifeline for many people. It’s clear Africa is ready to embrace the digital revolution to spur economic development. But reaching this goal will depend on our community of passionate people on the ground, policymakers, regulators and businesses embracing IXPs and working in collaboration to create these essential local traffic anchors.

Michuki Mwangi, Senior Director of Internet Technology and Development for the Internet Society

The rapid pace of Internet development in both Kenya and Nigeria underscores the critical role that IXPs and the accompanying infrastructure play in the establishment of strong and sustainable Internet ecosystems.

The achievement is a significant step towards the vision set by the peering community in Africa 10 years ago: for 80 percent of African Internet traffic to be local.

Among the reasons cited in the report for Kenya and Nigeria’s progress, is that the governments in both countries adopted policies that made it easier for an Internet ecosystem to thrive. Both governments not only made it easier for different service providers to develop sub-marine cables, but they also adopted data protection regulations that spurred confidence and attracted international service providers.

Both countries count on the Internet to develop their service economies, that thrive on financial, trade and professional services. Kenya for example, is a 40 percent service economy with many essential government services having moved online.

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