Who Decides What Future African Internet Will Look Like?

Who Decides What Future African Internet Will Look Like?

From TechCabal. Story by Bankole Oluwafemi.

The actual battle for the soul of the African Internet is physically far removed from the continent itself, happening in gilded boardrooms in London, Germany, Stockholm and Silicon Valley where the top echelon of these corporate interests negotiate shrewd long-term deals worth millions, sometimes billions of dollars.

The shape of Africa’s Internet landscape will most likely be determined by global Internet companies, Internet service providers, and Internet investors who are frantically racing to carve up a piece of the next billion for themselves.

In Nigeria, Etisalat Dobox, Airtel five Naira videos, MTN Music, and more all have one thing in common. The mobile networks zero-rate data access to specific content services they promote, giving their subscribers huge incentives to adopt those content services at the expense of others that would consume their data. Admittedly, they have not begun to selectively throttle access quality and demand rent like Comcast does to Netflix. But what is to say that won’t happen in the future, as the local telco content wars heat up?

…Every so often, we catch a glimpse of the chess moves, even if only long after they have been played. MTN’s recently acquired interest in Rocket Internet’s Africa Internet Group. Facebook’s zero data partnerships with Airtel in African countries as well as India. And from these occasional glimpses, one thing is clear. If these corporate interests have anything to say about it…and they do…Africa’s internet is in danger of being a closed one. It is quite possible that by the time net neutrality in Africa does become an issue, most of Africa’s Internet users will have found themselves in a maze of AOL-esque Internet walled gardens from the era of dial-up.

Read more at TechCabal.