An Evaluation of Open Access Broadband Networks in Africa: The Cases of Nigeria and South Africa

Despite its policy currency from the open source and open data movements there is little thorough analysis of how open access affects ICT policy outcomes in relation to extending broadband networks in Africa. There is very little acknowledgement of policy tensions that can arise from the application of open access in circumstances where investment in network extension is the main policy priority or recognition of the regulatory capacity and sophistication required if it is to be mandated in developing countries. As yet there is little evidence that mandatory open access networks have increased competition in services, decreased pricing and stimulated demand, as intended by various modes of open access regulation. Two of the largest ICT markets in Africa - Nigeria and South Africa - adopted broadband policies and plans in 2013, to much international acclaim. Implementation in these two countries has stalled; both identified open access as an instrument to drive broadband penetration. This policy paper examines international experiences of different policy and regulatory mechanisms to assess open access as a regulatory instrument to enhance competition, drive down backbone and backhaul prices and increase broadband penetration in these countries.