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Sub-Saharan Africa Internet Access Lags

FILE - Young men surf the internet at a cyber cafe in Nairobi's Kibera slum. Taken 6.20.2012

A newly released Gallup survey shows that Africa below the Sahara is one of the world's least internet-connected regions, though some SSA nations have made improvements in the last several years.

The U.S.-based polling firm Gallup's look at African Internet access shows that while infrastructure investment by some Sub-Saharan nations has brought demonstrable improvement, SSA still has a long way to go to reach the access levels seen in other parts of the world.

Gallup spotlighted five countries that made substantial improvements in the years 2019 - 2021.

South Africa scored the biggest - 145 point - Internet access improvement, going from 52% of the population able to log-on to 66% in 2021.

Senegal moved up to 51% access from its previous level ten points lower. Guinea also gained ten points, moving up to 33% access in 2021.

Nigeria, with Africa's biggest economy and largest population, also saw its performance rise ten points, reaching 36% access in that period, while Sierra Leone moved up from a slim 16% in 2019 to 26% two years later.

The Gallup survey showed the gap between urban and rural Internet access in Nigeria remained essentially the same while both areas improved by 11 points. In 2021, urban Sub-Saharan Africans had a 56% access level, while countryside areas moved up to 32%.

Looking at Nigeria's gender gap in access, Gallup reported that males went up 14 points in that two year period, moving from 31% access to 45% But females only went from 20% to 27%

As for age, Gallup found the group with the greatest access to the web in Nigeria was the 15-29 bloc, improving from 30% to 47%, while the 30-39 age group scored only a two point improvement, to 29%

As for South Africa, city dwellers enjoyed 72% Internet access in 2021, a ten point gain over 2019, while the nation's rural population moved up 13 points to 61%.

As for South Africa's Internet "gender gap," the Gallup survey found near-parity in 2021, with males at 67% and females with a 65% access rate.

As for access by age, South Africans aged 15 - 29 led the way with a 76% access rate, only a five point gain over 2019, while the 30 -49 group nearly caught up, moving 20 points to 74% access in 2021 compared to 2019's 54%

Gallup notes that access and infrastructure improvement are interconnected. It notes the World Bank's $250 million investment in Kenya, South Africa, and Nigeria. Observers say that with much of SSA getting its Internet access via mobile phones, telecom infrastructure improvements will not doubt help SSA become even more a part of the "world-wide web."