Moctar Yedaly, Head of Information Society Division at the African Union Commission

By Tracy Burrows, Johannesburg, South Africa

The African Union hopes to see up to 70% of internet traffic exchanged locally by 2020, up from 1% now.

This emerged at the 3rd Annual African Peering Interconnection Forum (AfPIF) in Johannesburg, South Africa, today.

Speaking at the AfPIF, Moctar Yedaly, the Head of the Information Society Division at the African Union Commission, announced a multi-million dollar new initiative to stimulate the development of national and regional internet exchange points across Africa, in partnership with the international Internet Society.

This is in line with the AU’s increased focus on infrastructure development, including the promotion of ICTs as a catalyst for development.

“We believe in the power of ICTs,” he said.

The new initiative, dubbed the African Internet Exchange System (AXIS) project, kicks off in Burkina Faso next month and will run for three years. It aims to stage over 60 workshops to facilitate the establishment of IXPs in the 30 countries in Africa that do not yet have them, as well as regional IXPs for intra-African internet traffic.

The goal, says Yedaly, is to increase peering and regional traffic. Currently, virtually all of Africa’s internet traffic is routed internationally, at a cost of over USD600 million. By developing national and regional IXPs, huge savings and efficiencies are expected to be realised.

Delegates at the AfPIF heard that due to the lack of regional IXPs and peering agreements, it is currently cheaper to route traffic from Lagos to London than it is to route it from Lagos to Abuja.

The AXIS project is funded by the Euro-Africa Infrastructure Fund and the Government of Luxembourg and will cost 5.1 million Euros.

Dawit Bekele, the Internet Society's Regional Bureau Director for Africa welcomed the partnership with the AU, saying: “We believe the AXIS project is extremely important to the continued health of the Internet ecosystem in Africa, and building the technical infrastructure and training the people to sustain it are fundamental to extending the Internet in Africa.”

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