African governments’ sits on over 400 million dollars meant to expand internet access in the continent

Some African countries remain reluctant to finance projects that would boost internet access despite being the continent with the least internet access.

According to a joint report by Web Foundation, the Alliance for Affordable Internet and United Nations Women, 37 African countries have the Universal Service and Access Funds (USAF), which is collected through levies on telecommunication licenses, grants and donations to promote internet connectivity to under served communities.

However, millions of this USAF remain unspent in various government coffers. An estimated total of $408 million lie dormant in government treasuries and over the years, the rate at which these funds are being disbursed has reduce drastically. Inability for these governments to disburse funds do not stem from unavailability of these monies yet the continent suffers a backlog of untapped internet connectivity.

Luckily, 4 African countries- Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Rwanda, and Uganda- have zero account balance signifying a disbursement of funds, though the reports question the transparency of these distribution as it referenced Nigeria and Côte d’Ivoire laws which require authorities to spend the money every fiscal year.

Africa has the lowest global internet penetration at 21.8 compared to Europe’s 79.6 percent and Asia’s 43.9 percent penetration. Global internet contribution to GDP stands at 3.7 percent, while Africa’s internet to GDP averages a 1.1 percent.

Taking the lead from the bottom again in internet speed is Africa with the lowest internet speed in the world. For some reason high data costs and inadequate infrastructure remains a hindrance for the continent to achieve a universal digital access.

Regardless, governments from Ethiopia, Cameroon, Egypt and Democratic Republic of Congo continue to shut down the internet or block access to social media outlets— costing economies millions of dollars in revenue.