While Africa’s future depends on embracing technology—especially in the provision of fast, reliable, affordable internet connectivity—many African governments are quick to shut down the internet when it serves them well.
In the last four years, nearly half (or more) of African countries experienced an internet blackout.
In all cases, the internet blackouts occurred during conflict or during elections because incumbent governments prevent online access to political information. This has had a negative effect on the overall African economy, which is still at the bottom end of the global digital economy. Internet dusk has resulted in thousands of lost hours for businesses operating online via ecommerce and social commerce. This has led to a loss in the billions .. In 2019, internet and social media shutdowns cost the continent over $2 billion.
Africa’s online businesses have lost thousands of hours of business time
In Ethiopia, a combined total of 3,657 hours were lost and cost the country $100 million, with the first one happening from Jan. 2020 to the end of Jun. 2020 in Western Oromia according to British tech research firm Comparitech.
Another one followed in Nov. 2020 in the region of Tigray after war broke out and lasted till Dec. 15 when some services were restored.
Nigeria’s Twitter ban from Jun. 5 2021 to Jan. 13, 2022 affected around 104.4 million internet users in the country, and cost the country around $367 million according to Welsh VPN company Top10VPN.
Comparitech estimates that during the 2020 Uganda presidential election, ‘the Pearl of Africa’ lost $10 million in business revenue in 30 days. The government arrested those who attempted to access social media via Virtual Private Networks. A social media tax is also in place.
Internet and social media shutdowns cost Africa billions
In 2020, Chad had the longest shutdown with WhatsApp being blocked for 3,912 hours at a total cost of more than $20 million. The shutdown began on July 22 and was ongoing at the end of the year.
Tanzania, whose government has been truncating media freedom since 2015, had an internet blackout which lasted 1,584 hours in 2020 at the cost of over $600 million.
In 2019, a report by Top10VPN indicated that a total of 12 African governments switched off internet services, leading to a combined loss of $2 billion. These countries were: Sudan, Chad and DRC, Ethiopia.
Zimbabwe, Togo, Burundi, Chad, Mali, and Guin