An evaluation of open access broadband networks in Africa: the cases of Nigeria and South Africa

It has become popular to include the open access term in broadband policy and planning documents since it gained popularity on the back of open source and open data movements. In this way, open access principles found their way onto ‘best practice’ checklists where ‘open access networks’ are viewed as a positive factor. There is little evidence, however, that mandatory open access networks have increased competition in services, decreased pricing, and stimulated demand, as intended by various adopters and policymakers. It is becoming imperative to acknowledge how policy tensions can arise from applying open access principles to network extension in contexts of investment shortages and regulatory incapacity.

In order to assess the effects and potential of open access in African broadband sectors, this policy paper examines the different policy and regulatory mechanisms used for implementing open access in Nigeria and South Africa. Both countries adopted open access principles in their broadband policies which have since stalled, failing to enhance competition, increase broadband penetration, and reduce backbone and backhaul prices.

After establishing that investment and innovation are trade-offs in a mandatory open access regime, the study makes it clear that regulation should not expose the capacity constraints of a developing country and instead encourage voluntary forms of open access.

The findings and recommendations of the full paper, can be viewed here.

Authors: A, Gillwald, F. Odufuwa, B. Rademan and S. Esselaar.

Publication: November 2016