Scaring internet prices in Malawi


A billboard magnificently positioned along Kamuzu Highway adjacent to Civic offices in Blantyre reads: “Accessible and affordable internet to everyone”. A picture of President Peter Mutharika is beautifully ‘etched’ around the message to perhaps make it obvious that the message is DPP’s government cherished dream policy.

This message is astoundingly in sync with International Telecommunication Union’s (ITU) 20- 20 initiative that sets a target of broadband internet of 20Mbps for $20 a month accessible to everyone in the world by 2020.

Dreams are beautiful, especially ones in colour, but the problem is that dreams intoxicate us into fairly lands but leaves us with hangover headaches as reality eventually beckons. According to the Internet World Stats the reality for us is 931,054 people had access to the internet out of a population of 17,241,754 as of December 31, 2013 (5.4 percent internet penetration). At that time there were only 203,840 Facebook users (1.2 percent Facebook Penetration). Our download speed by March 2015 was mere 2.49 Mbps.


Internet affordability is measured in terms of how much percentage of an average citizen’s monthly income is spent on the internet; economists call it Gross National Income per capita (GNI per capita). In 2011, the United Nations Broadband Commission set a target of entry level mobile or fixed broadband to cost no more than five percent of GNI per capita for those surviving on US$2 a day.

How is Malawi doing in as far as internet affordability is concerned? Take a deep breath; you are in for a shock! According to a 2014 report by Alliance for affordable internet (A4AI) Malawi is ranked at the bottom corner with an internet affordability of 28 percent of GNI per capita; I am not saying we are the worst; we did better than Haiti and Ethiopia who had 38 percent and 41 percent of GNI respectively. Kazakhstan is the star performer with 0.69 percent of GNI per capita internet affordability.

The report covers a period of January to December 2013. By that time, a 16.5 percent VAT had not been introduced on internet. So, the figure for the 2015 report should leave Malawi perhaps worse than Ethiopia. With an introduction of a further 10 percent excise tax on internet data for the 2015-2016 budget, I am very sure no country will dare beat us on exorbitant internet prices in the whole wide world.


The report indicates that Malawi’s internet speeds improved in recent years due to its access to submarine cables via Mozambique and Tanzania yet prices remained higher. At 28 percent of GNI per capita, Malawi had one of the highest prices in southern Africa.

Malawi’s significant electricity crisis was mentioned as one of the contributing factors. Cost associated with need for mobile operators to power base stations from other power sources are passed on to consumers and increase the cost for internet access.

Let me get to the final verse of this song; the decision to load 10 percent excise tax on internet is a violation of the billboard’s DPP policy, UN broadband commission policy and ITU expectation. My ladyship, I have no more to say.

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