It is no secret that Africa has consistently lagged in different human endeavors, including internet penetration. According to the Statista report, only about four out of ten Africans had internet access as of December 2021. The online penetration rate on the continent was below the global average, measured at around 66 percent. According to Statista, the number of internet users in Africa will be around 565 million in 2022, more than six times the number in 2010. However, this is quickly changing, as the report projects the figure to come close to 700 million by 2025. According to a recent International Telecommunication Union report, internet penetration in Africa has increased by nearly 20% in the last five years. This is a significant increase, and it is expected to continue.
However, the significance of internet penetration in Africa cannot be overemphasized. For a continent that is largely developing, the internet provides a way to connect with the rest of the world. It creates new opportunities for business, education, and community involvement. The internet is also an important development tool. It has the potential to advance democracy, combat corruption, and improve health and education.
The best part is that internet penetration is rapidly increasing in Africa, with countries such as Morocco recording an internet penetration of approximately 84.1 percent, making it the African country with the highest internet penetration. According to the Statista report, Seychelles ranked second with 79 percent, followed by Egypt with approximately 72 percent as of January 2022. These significant achievements by the respective countries, combined with the recent infusion of investment into the sector, point to a brighter future for the continent in terms of connectivity.
Microsoft and Viasat Target 100M Africans with Internet Access by 2025
Barely a month since OneWeb, a London-based communications solutions provider, announced a distribution agreement with Airtel Africa to provide satellite internet connectivity across Africa on November 11, 2022, Microsoft over the weekend announced a partnership with Viasat, an American communications company to help deliver internet access to 10 million people around the globe, including 5 million across Africa.
Viasat is the first satellite partner to join forces with Microsoft’s Airband Initiative, and they will work together to deepen Airband’s work in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, Guatemala, Mexico, and the United States, as well as prioritize expanding the program to Senegal and Angola to provide much-needed internet access, often for the first time.
This groundbreaking global partnership for Airband is an important step toward the Initiative’s expanded goal of providing internet access to a quarter of a billion people worldwide, including 100 million Africans, by the end of 2025.
Airband, like Elon Musk’s soon-to-be-launched Starlink, which entered certain African markets earlier this year, uses satellite technology to bring internet access to remote areas that previously had few, if any, options for conventional connectivity. Working together, the companies will pool their resources and expertise to expand the reach of telehealth, distance learning and education, precision agriculture, clean energy, and other services through the transformational provision of power and connectivity. The companies will collaborate to provide and pilot technologies including, but not limited to, satellites (both Geostationary Orbit and Low Earth Orbit (LEO)) and fixed wireless.
Mark Dankberg and Kunle Awosika
What You Should Know about the Deal
Commenting on the development, Kunle Awosika, Managing Director of, the Africa Transformation Office said “While the African opportunity is immense, one of the challenges facing the continent is infrastructure expansion which would enable the acceleration of digital transformation and facilitate a connected African continent. Critical infrastructure enablers are needed to accelerate digital transformation and the adoption of digital technologies. The Airband Initiative is vital in helping to accelerate broadband access for rural communities.”
While, according to Mark Dankberg, CEO and Chairman of Viasat “Connecting the world is an expansive and challenging goal, and we believe it is equally important that it is done in a way that is sustainable, responsible, and inclusive. Viasat’s mission is to keep space safe and accessible for everyone by responsibly using it as a shared resource to benefit humanity. The partnership with Microsoft is another important step in bringing affordable internet service across Africa, Latin America, and the U.S., as both companies continue breaking down barriers to bridge the digital divide and make significant progress towards digital equity and inclusion.”
Microsoft has already provided high-speed internet access to more than 51 million people worldwide via Airband, including over 4 million in unserved rural communities in the United States and an additional 47 million in 16 unserved and underserved countries outside of the United States. Microsoft’s Airband Initiative, launched in 2017, collaborates with local and regional internet and energy access providers, telecom equipment manufacturers, nonprofits, and governmental and non-governmental organizations to advance access to affordable internet and relevant digital skills around the world. Microsoft believes that access to the Internet is a fundamental right for everyone because it provides access to education, information, and personal needs fulfillment, and thus its presence in Africa represents a significant disruption in the sector.