Expensive And Slow Internet Is Stifling Botswana's Digital Development Efforts

I had an interesting conversation with my colleagues from Youth Transforming Africa the other day about prices of internet in our respective countries. The conversation had started when one of the colleagues from Nigeria complained about the $20 he was paying for personal internet monthly.

I was quick to point out to him that i spent that same amount on 5GB of internet which normally lasts me a week, if i am being really stingy with it. The conversation lead to other colleagues pitching in to state internet prices in their countries. One colleague in Senegal stated that 5GB was less than $1 there whilst another from Rwanda said she was paying $7 monthly for high speed uncapped internet.

The conversation prompted me do a bit more research about the cost and quality of internet in Botswana compared to other countries not only in Africa but across the world. I came across this article which compared internet speeds amongst 207 countries in the world and the results were not good for Botswana.

According to the research done on the article,Botswana ranked a shameful 165th out of the 207 countries when it comes to speed of internet,with mean download speeds of 1.92Mbps. For context sake,Kenya had mean download speeds of 7.64Mbps,Taiwan had a lightning fast 85.02Mbps whilst the average of all the surveyed countries was 11.03Mbps. Put in layman terms,those numbers mean that whilst it would take just over 8 minutes to download a 5GB movie in Taiwan,the same movie would take about an hour and 30 minutes to download in Kenya whilst in Botswana it would take a whooping 6 hours to download.

When it comes to cost of internet,compared to just its African peers,the country is again put to even more shame. According to the infographic below, Botswana has one of the highest internet prices in the world, with 1GB of data in the region of $10-$20. Again for context sake,1GB of data costs $0.68 in Sudan and $0.26 in India. Although some developed countries like the US and Canada have high mobile data prices,it is important to note that because of easy availability of WiFi and relatively cheap cable internet which is not the case in Botswana,the population seldom uses mobile data which means they rarely incur these costs. It is a different case in Botswana however,because mobile data is the primary source of internet for most people.

The country has been making efforts to catch up with the rest of the world in the 4th industrial revolution but as long as internet services continue to be slow and pricey,all the efforts being put towards moving the country towards that goal are going to be futile.

Currently Botswana,as aforementioned and as is the case with most African countries,relies primarily on mobile wireless connectivity technologies like 3G and 4G rather than cable internet which means most of the populace use mobile internet rather than cable connected internet. This means internet service providers (ISPs) have the monopoly of control over internet prices and hence most of them charge exorbitant costs which are dent in the pockets of the mostly poor populace. This monopoly makes it hard for the government to regulate the pricing of internet and because of absence of this regulatory authority,ISPs can do as they please with no repercussions.

As i have already mentioned on previous posts on this blog,to break this monopoly and the exorbitant pricing strategies that come with it,the country will have to first develop high quality analogous components like high speed fibre cable connectivity and satellite connectivity which will support the operations of these ISPs.

This will allow the government to have bargaining power on the pricing of internet services in the country as they will be playing a part in creating an enabling environment for these ISPs to operate efficiently and effectively. The government can then be able to regulate pricing of internet services in order for it to align with the purchasing power of the population.

Also,because of the presence of this enabling environment for ISPs,more of them will look to the country to set up their services which would increase competition and foster growth and innovation within these ISPs which would consequently lead to the increase of the quality of their services. Currently Botswana has only 53 registered ISPs,a figure that does not give consumers  a wide range of choice because the ISPs' services are not diverse enough and most of them are located only in the southern parts of the country.

For the country to be able to make strides in improving its digital economy and actively compete with the rest of the world as is the plan,it will first have to find a way to enable most if not all of its citizens to have access to affordable and high quality internet services.Only through initiatives which are going to foster access will it succeed in catching up with the rest of the world in the 4th industrial revolution.


  1. This is an article BOCRA should read. Anyway having inside information I could attest that in Botswana we do have high internet speed through fibre cable which still has a long way to find its way to all end users specifically in their homes. Our government is trying its best through a project termed FTTx to have fibre to end users. Now we need BOCRA to tame our ISPs.

    1. interesting point about FTTx. can you share any more details about it?

    2. i see it was lunched in 2014.how far along is it?

  2. Great article...we have a long way to go! And it is truly stiffling us...indeed we do have online business ideas for which the whole world could be the market( considering that our small population doesn't suffice as a target market for many services and products.) but the low quality internet, the insane charges and unreliabilty thereof are just an instant discouragement!

    1. true indeed.it is a situation that needs immediate remedying


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