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Powerful New Research Documents the Economic Development Impact and Potential of Internet Connectivity in Sub-Saharan Africa

Researchers highlight impact of subsea cables and internet connectivity on employment, GDP

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C.—RTI International (RTI), a nonprofit research institute, has released a series of analyses about the economic impact of submarine fiber optic cables and broadband connectivity for six countries in sub-Saharan Africa: the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, and Tanzania. The research was sponsored by Facebook as part of their 2Africa initiative to promote an open and inclusive internet ecosystem. RTI has estimated that Facebook’s 2Africa initiative will generate a $26.4 to 36.9 billion impact on the African economy within two to three years of starting operations in 2023-2024 – a 0.42 percent to 0.58 percent impact on the continent’s economy overall.

The research documents how improvements in internet connectivity from subsea cables have led to a 19 percent increase in gross domestic product (GDP) per capita in the DRC, an 8.4 percent increase in skilled-employment in parts of Kenya, and a 7.8 percent impact on employment in parts of Nigeria connected to fiber infrastructure. Other findings show notable increases in industry sectors from Information and Communications Technology (ICT) to Finance.

RTI’s Center for Applied Economics and Strategy conducted the research in partnership with African telecommunications experts. RTI paired local insights with advanced statistical techniques that studied cable landings from the past 6 to 10 years, controlling for trends in technology, population, and other factors.

“This work sends a powerful message about the importance of connectivity for economic development,” said Alan O’Connor, the studies’ lead author and the Director of the Center for Applied Economics and Strategy at RTI. “The results say less about the past and more about the potential impact if infrastructure, policy, and affordability challenges were solved. Doing so would catalyze economic opportunity and growth, promote equity between urban and rural areas, and help keep the most disadvantaged from falling further behind.”

RTI found employment impacts in all countries, especially in areas with fiber infrastructure, but many people are not online because there is no network available or because they cannot afford access. This meant that although there were significant impacts, the gains were not always broad enough to generate national-level results. Key findings include:

  • DRC: 19 percent increase in GDP per capita nationally; 8.2 percent increase in employment in fiber-connected areas.
  • Kenya: 8.4 percent increase in skilled employment in fiber-connected areas.
  • Mozambique: 13.6 increase in employment for urban university-educated people.
  • Nigeria: 7.8 percent increase in employment in fiber-connected areas.
  • South Africa: 6.1 percent increase in GDP per capita nationally; 2.2 percent increase in employment in fiber-connected areas.
  • Tanzania: 18.7 percent increase in employment in fiber-connected areas.

Facebook’s 2Africa initiative is one of the largest open consortium subsea internet cable projects in the world and will interconnect 23 countries across Africa, the Middle East, and Europe. The 37,000 kilometer in length cable created for the 2Africa initiative, will link the continent of Africa from East to West for the first time. 

While the importance of connectivity to economic growth is well-established, there have been few rigorous studies on the economic impacts, especially for individual countries in Africa.

To learn more and to read RTI's full report, click here.

To learn more about Facebook's 2Africa initiative, click here.