Networks in Nigeria now exchange 70% of internet traffic locally

A new report has found that Nigeria is among the three countries in Africa with the most interconnected networks that have succeeded in exchanging 70-80 percent of their traffic locally.

South Africa is at the top with 80 percent of its internet traffic localised, followed by Kenya and Nigeria at about 70 percent each, according to the report titled ‘Moving towards an interconnected Africa: the 80/20 Initiative’ by the Internet Society.

The report outlines the state of the internet interconnection in African and the important role Internet Exchange Points (IXPs) play in improving access and affordability.

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An IXP refers to a technical infrastructure where multiple networks, including internet service providers, mobile operators, enterprise networks, research and education networks, e-Government services, and content delivery networks (CDNs) come together to connect and exchange internet traffic.

Advocates for localising traffic on the continent like members of the Internet Society and the African Peering and Interconnection Community are pushing a vision of 80 percent of the internet traffic consumed in Africa to be accessed locally, and only 20 percent routed from outside the continent. Achieving the vision, the advocates say, would drastically improve internet affordability and also grow the speed of the internet on the continent.

IXPs enable the local exchange of internet traffic instead of using expensive international transit routes. This not only makes internet access much more affordable but also improves the quality of access by providing more direct network connections. Access speeds for content can be up to 10 times faster with an IXP because traffic is routed locally versus international transit routes.

The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa in a report found that only 1 in 5 households have internet access. Growing internet access is considered a priority to improving the economic prospects of countries on the continent. A recent study estimates that the internet economy has the potential to contribute up to $180 billion to Africa’s gross domestic product (GDP) by 2025.

The activities of IXPs are starting to grow in Africa. An Internet Society report found that the number of IXPs has risen by 58 percent over the past 8 years, from 19 in 2012 to 46 in 2020. Currently, over half of the countries in Africa have at least one IXP. Only six countries have more than one. A network can save up to $240,000 per year by connecting to a local IXP.

The Internet Society report also found that the presence of delivery networks has increased significantly and the amount of locally available content and demand for content hosting has increased.

“A key success factor for IXPs is that governments understand the value that internet infrastructure provides, which encourages the adoption of policies and regulations that enable ecosystems to thrive,” said Dawit Bekele, Africa Regional Vice President for the Internet Society.

The collaboration between the Internet Society and the African Internet community, including community groups, technical experts, and policymakers has been going on since 2008 and the objective is to improve local internet infrastructure by helping to establish IXPs and strengthen the trust and cooperation between those that build the internet.

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