International Connectivity and the Digital Divide in Sub-Saharan Africa

During the last decades, international connectivity has improved significantly with the worldwide deployment of some 400 fiber submarine cables (SMCs), transmitting more than 99% of international telecommunications. If sub-Saharan African (SSA) has long remained excluded from this interconnection process, the maritime infrastructure network has recently densified and spurred African connectivity catch-up. This paper estimates the impact of SMC deployment on the digital divide in an original sample of 49 SSA countries covering the period 1990-2014. Diff-in-diff (DID) estimations are conducted and highlight the particular contribution of SEACOM and EASSy cables, laid in 2009-2010, to Internet penetration in Eastern and Southern Africa. According to DID estimates these SMCs rollout has yielded a 3-5 percentage-point increase in internet penetration rates in this region compared to the rest of the continent. Triple difference estimations emphasize conditional factors under which these cables have fostered Internet uptake: enlarged Internet bandwidth per users, lower broadband Internet tariffs, higher investment in the mobile network, improved terrestrial connectivity, and electricity access.

Cariolle J. (2020) "International Connectivity and the Digital Divide in Sub-Saharan Africa", FERDI Working paper P264, March (Revised version Dec. 2020),  forthcoming in  Information Economics & Policy