Tiny Togo leads West Africa in mobile internet penetration

According to the latest mobile internet speed test data by Ookla Research, Togo ranks 62nd globally, second in Africa after South Africa, and first in West Africa, with a download speed of 45.72 mbps and an upload speed of 8.64 mbps

Nestled on the Gulf of Guinea, the West African nation of Togo may be small in size, but its strides in the digital realm are huge. As of 2024, Togo boasts the highest mobile internet penetration rate per capita in West Africa, with 65.6% of its population connected, according to data by Statista. 

This means out of its 9.2 million population, at least 6 million people are connected to the internet, compared to the regional average of around 50%. According to Data Reportal, 6.91 million cellular mobile connections were active in Togo in early 2024, with this figure equivalent to 75.5% of the total population. “The number of households with internet access at home in Togo is forecast to amount to 1.83 million in 2024,” Statista states.

In 2024, Togo is estimated to have 100% 3G and 4G network coverage, and an average broadband connection speed of 31.83 mbps. According to the latest mobile internet speed test data by Ookla Research, Togo ranks 62nd globally, second in Africa after South Africa, and first in West Africa, with a download speed of 45.72 mbps and an upload speed of 8.64 mbps.

One of the key factors behind Togo’s internet success is the affordability of mobile internet. Recognizing the limited disposable income of a large portion of the population, MNOs have developed innovative pricing structures. These include daily and weekly data bundles, catering to users who cannot afford large monthly subscriptions. This granular pricing system allows even low-income earners to connect and participate in the digital world. Other factors driving this rate of penetration are low-cost SIM cards, high demand for mobile money services, social media and streaming services. 

In 2023, the average cost of 1 GB of mobile internet in Togo was $1.45, with the cheapest plan costing $0.27 per GB according to the annual Cost of Mobile Data report released by UK internet analysis firm Cable. This is a more affordable price than in South Africa ($1.81), and gives regional leaders in affordability Ghana and Nigeria a run for their money.

In 2022, Togo, CSquared and Google launched a major digital initiative which included the arrival of ‘Equiano’, a subsea internet cable running from Portugal to South Africa. As its first landing in Africa, the subsea cable had a direct impact on internet connectivity in Togo, resulting in high-speed improved and affordable internet access for millions of Togolese and West Africans in the region.

Togo was also the first West-African country and third African state to deploy commercial 5G networks. In November 2020, Togocom, in partnership with 5G network provider Nokia, activated the country’s first commercial 5G network, offering clients high-speed mobile connection in the capital Lome. 

In 2019, the government made a commitment to make Togo a regional hub for digitalisation and technology as part of its National Development Plan (NDP) and a model for social and economic growth in West Africa. This gives the Togolese people access to innovative products and services in education, healthcare and public services across the country. “It is thus crucial that we ensure that the deployment of the 5G network is not limited to our urban spaces, but also that helps expand network coverage so that all parts of Togo—even the most isolated parts—can benefit from this new technology,” Cina Lawson, Minister of Technology and Digitalisation, said then.

One of the most immediate and tangible impacts of 5G has been the improvement in average internet connectivity across the country. With speeds up to 100 times faster than 4G, Togolese users in Lome now enjoy seamless streaming, high-definition video calls, and lag-free gaming experiences, transforming the way they consume and interact with digital content.

Moreover, the launch of 5G has catalyzed a wave of innovation and entrepreneurship in Togo’s burgeoning tech ecosystem. From fintech startups developing cutting-edge mobile payment solutions to agritech companies leveraging IoT technology to revolutionize agriculture, the possibilities are endless. In healthcare, telemedicine services powered by 5G are enabling remote consultations, diagnostics, and treatment, bridging the gap between urban centers and rural communities. In education, immersive virtual reality experiences powered by 5G are revolutionizing learning, providing students with access to interactive lessons and educational resources like never before.

But prior to 2010, internet access in Togo was a luxury reserved for the privileged few. Dial-up connections were slow and unreliable, hindering any widespread adoption. However, the turn of 2016 ushered in a period of significant change.

The Togolese government recognized the transformative potential of mobile internet, with the National Information and Communication Technology (ICT) strategy laying out an ambitious plan aimed to improve infrastructure, encourage competition among mobile network operators (MNOs), and make internet access more affordable. It hopes to digitize 100% of administrative procedures by 2025.

Government initiatives were complemented by proactive investments from the private sector. MNOs like Togocom Group, Moov Africa and GVA poured resources into building and expanding their mobile networks, ensuring wider coverage across the country. Additionally, these companies introduced competitive data packages, making mobile internet progressively more accessible to the average citizen.

Unlike some developed countries where desktop computers were the dominant form of internet access, Togo’s digital journey has been primarily mobile-driven. This reflects the rapid adoption of smartphones, particularly low-cost models, across the nation. Mobile network operators have capitalized on this trend by optimizing their services and content delivery for mobile users. This focus on mobile-first solutions has been instrumental in bridging the digital divide in Togo.

The widespread access to mobile internet has had a profound impact on Togolese society. It has empowered a new generation of entrepreneurs. Online marketplaces and digital payment platforms have opened up new avenues for small businesses to reach a wider audience and sell their products and services.

Students now have access to a vast ocean of educational resources online. Educational apps and e-learning platforms are supplementing traditional classroom learning, fostering a more dynamic and engaging learning environment.

Mobile banking and digital wallets are providing financial services to previously unbanked populations. This fosters financial inclusion, empowering people to manage their finances more effectively and participate in the formal economy.

Mobile internet has also become a crucial platform for civic engagement. Social media allows citizens to connect with their government, participate in public discussions, and hold authorities accountable.

Increased internet access comes with the risk of cyber threats like online scams and malware attacks. But Togo is the host of a cyber security monitoring centre that serves the whole of Africa. Based in Lomé, and set up as a partnership between the government and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (Uneca), the African Centre for Coordination and Research in Cybersecurity monitors, detects, and share cybersecurity intelligence with African governments and security agencies, with cybercrime is estimated to cost Africa $4 billion a year.

Togo’s success story holds valuable lessons for other African nations. The country’s focus on affordability, mobile-first solutions, and a collaborative approach between government and private sector stakeholders offers a model for achieving widespread mobile internet penetration. As Togo continues to bridge its digital divide and improve its digital ecosystem, it is poised to cement its position as a leader in the digital transformation of West Africa while inspiring similar initiatives across the continent.


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