Local Internet Exchange Points vital to Advance Digital Economy in Africa

A new report published today by the Internet Society explains the steps African countries can take to bring faster and less expensive Internet connectivity to the continent. The report shows how local Internet Exchange Points (IXPs) are key for countries 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.

IXPs are locations where Internet service providers (ISPs) and other network operators meet and exchange Internet traffic. Without a local IXP, Internet service providers must 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 the digital revolution that COVID-19 has accelerated as the Internet becomes a lifeline for many people. It is 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,” explains Michuki Mwangi, Senior Director of Internet Technology and Development for the Internet Society.

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 made it easier for different service providers to develop sub-marine cables and they also adopted data protection regulations that spurred confidence and attracted international service providers.

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