SA comes stone last among EMEA

SA comes stone last among EMEA’s major economies for internet speed

A slow internet in South Africa with low penetration rates is hindering the ability to create jobs in the country

SA comes stone last among EMEA


Job creation cannot accelerate while South Africa lingers in the internet backwoods. This was the message of Kevin Lings, chief economist at South Africa’s Stanlib, speaking to

Lings’ view is echoed by many in the ICT industry as well as business groups. The latest round of sober examination of South Africa’s woeful record of internet expansion comes in the wake of an Akamai report, The State of the Internet Q1 2013. In the report, which is viewed as authoritative within the industry due to the Akamai group’s powerful Intelligent Platform, handling two trillion content requests a day.

The revelation that South Africa had the slowest internet speeds of any major economy in all of Africa, Europe and Middle East (EMEA) is therefore something to take seriously. Not only are Akamai’s figures beyond dispute, but the investing world reads this report. Outsourcers read this report. And, as the BPO industry continues to move into more complex and data-hungry forms of customer care (such as video chat), BPO investment in South Africa will become a bellwether for the way in which the country’s persistent lag in making broadband access broad acts as handbrake on the entire economy.

The opposition party has certainly noticed. Butch Steyn, DA spokesperson on communications, said that the government’s failure to implement a National Broadband Policy was costing jobs and growth. The national Department of Communications (DoC) has just suffered a serious reverse in its flagship policy when the Treasury ordered it to return R500 million in funding for broadband until the DoC could produce a plausible and rigorous plan for the roll out of fast internet to all South Africans by 2020.

That target, now a mere six-and-a-half years away, recedes from possibility as one scans the Akamai report. South Africa, already stone last in the EMEA, is in no hurry to catch up: while the global average connection speed increased by 4.0 per cent to 2.1 mbps, the Beloved Country trailed managed only a 3.5 per cent increase in the last quarter. Meanwhile the EMEA region’s best performer, global number 4 Switzerland, managed nearly twice that increase. This leaves South Africa and Turkey (at 3.1mbps) the only EMEA countries featured in the report in which the average internet user experiences speeds below the official ‘broadband’ threshold.

Steyn commented on the continuing lack of a cohesive broadband framework by underlining that the internet, “like energy and transport…is an enabler which can speed up delivery”. A spokesperson for the DoC, Siyabulela Qoza, said that the National Broadband Policy’s funding was “ring-fenced”, and that rollout was being prepared for as a matter of urgency. The DoC, long perceived to be reeling from a lack of direction, very recently saw Dina Pule removed as Minister of Communications. Her replacement, Yunus Carriem, a sociologist and activist with no real technology credentials, was not an obvious first choice for the role. Industrial Development Corporation analyst Spiwe Chireka was quoted by as saying that “It is time government starts taking the ICT sector seriously. It is one of SA’s chief economic sectors and if it doesn’t start running smoothly, it’s going to catch up to us.”


Read more about ICT infrastructure and job creation:

Rural outsourcing — can it make a dent in SA’s unemployment figures? (Part I)

Benefits for property in high-speed broadband

Bluegrass Digital — Connecting With The Continent