SA still has the best internet in Africa – but it’s slipping globally, shows new study

  • South Africa has the best quality internet on the continent, according to the latest study by Surfshark.
  • And while it’s fast and affordable by African standards, on a global scale, getting connected in South Africa is becoming more expensive.
  • That’s especially true when considering broadband internet.
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South Africa’s internet quality remains the best in Africa, according to a new study by Surfshark, but its affordability ranking on a global scale has taken a knock.

South Africa is ranked 66th out of 117 countries profiled in Surfshark’s latest Digital Quality of Life (DQL) Index. The study looks at a country’s internet affordability and quality, electronic infrastructure, security, and how digitally advanced its government is.

South Africa has maintained its pole position on the continent with the top overall DQL score, followed closely by Mauritius and Morocco. It has the most affordable internet, calculated by how much time people have to work to afford the internet connection, and best quality in Africa.

And while these two heavily weighted factors have kept South Africa at the top, the country performs poorly when it comes to infrastructure and security.

In terms of electronic infrastructure, defined as how well-developed and inclusive a country’s digital technologies are, South Africa is ranked seventh on the continent, beaten by the likes of Kenya, Algeria, Nigeria, and Tunisia.

South Africa’s electronic security, measured according to how safe and protected people feel in a country when using the internet, is ranked fifth on the continent, one spot behind Zambia.

On the global charts, South Africa improved its spot in the overall DQL rankings by two positions from 2021, despite dropping in every category except for cybersecurity.

The drop in internet affordability was the steepest, with South Africa losing 13 places. Internet access in South Africa is only slightly more affordable than in Kazakhstan, Russia, and Finland. And although mobile internet access has become more affordable over the past year, the cost of broadband internet has risen substantially by global standards.

In 2021, it took less than two hours of work to afford the cheapest broadband internet. Now, South Africans need to work more than five hours to afford the same.

Israel, which tops the global DQL Index, has the most affordable internet in the world, with just 19 minutes of work buying the cheapest broadband connection.

And it’s not just South Africa’s affordability ranking which has dropped, internet quality, when compared globally, has also suffered. Mobile internet access in South Africa dropped in terms of its stability and speed improvement. You’re now likely to get better a better internet connection in Peru or Argentina.

Surfshark used data from its latest DQL Index to map the internet affordability gap between wealthy and developing nations, which is wider than ever before. Lower-income countries work three times more for three times slower internet, with the poorest countries paying the most for the worst quality internet. This is especially problematic in Africa.

“People who can’t access the internet are cut off from the digital opportunities that people from higher-income countries have. Without internet access, people can’t study or work online, and they can’t grow their economy with digital exports,” said Surfshark’s Lead Researcher Agneska Sablovskaja.

“The internet is also very slow in many African countries. Even if people can afford the internet, they still face limitations in what they can do. For instance, low internet speeds often make it very difficult to make video calls.”

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