Gambia: The Internet is insanely expensive in The Gambia. Are they robbing us?

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Nfams: Enough of politics! Let’s talk about something different and more interesting.

Bax: What?

Nfams: The Internet,

Bax: What, the Internet?

Nfams: Yes! The Internet!

I understand the order of the day in The Gambia is politics, but I will diverge a bit from that for now and talk another pertinent issue. The Internet is undoubtedly one of the most important inventions of modern Science. In the advanced world, barely can you do a thing without The Internet! Whether you are seeking for a job, booking a holiday trip to a lovely destination, ordering your favourite pizza or kebab, paying for a bill or connecting to a friend or family member, all require the use of The Internet. In politics, The Internet started political revolutions as we have seen in the so-called Arab spring in Africa and the Middle East. It also helped countries like The Gambia peacefully end a 22-year-old brutal dictatorship through the use of social media platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp and online Radio and Newspapers.

Having visited The Gambia from December 2017 to January 2018 and spending a lot of money on the Internet, I thought it would be greatly exciting to research, compare and share my findings with those who may be interested. The aim of this is just to raise awareness about the status of the internet in the Gambia compared to our neighboring countries.

To give you a gist of some of the frustrations Internet users faced in the Gambia, I will share my own experience with you. I was working on a Programming project and 90% of my work would require an active and fast internet connection. I subscribed to both Qcell and Africell data plans. Interestingly and like they advertise, their Internet connections are really fast in the sense that they will evaporate into thin air unimaginably. Absolutely no offence to these companies but this was my experience. I was really dumbfounded!

At home, we have GAMTEL/GAMCEL’s so-called “Super Fast WiMax” connection. To be honest, it was really exciting to see the antenna with all the complicated wiring but with due respect, I spent most of the day refreshing Google’s homepage. In other words, these internet service providers need to stop the excessive marketing or building group of companies and get to work! They should stop reaping us off in broad daylight!

Okay, anger vented out! I would not have written this without doing some research. I have done some basic data collection and analysis on this subject matter and found out that Internet in The Gambia is the most expensive out of many. The countries included in this analysis are Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria and Gambia. In each of these countries except The Gambia, data was collected for at least two GSM companies but only one was included because they have almost the same pricing. The goal is to compare tariffs in The Gambia with other countries. For each company, data is extracted from their websites or from the SIM card menus. Data was cleaned and aggregated and from each country a company was selected at random for analysis.

As we can see from the first plot, the tariffs between Qcell, Africell, and GAMCEL are quite competitive. Example, from the plot and for all networks, 10 Gigabyte of data which is equivalent 10,000 Megabyte cost at least D1,400. But for 12GB, GAMCEL becomes a little cheaper than all other networks. So we can conclude that the service providers in The Gambia basically have the same pricing rates.

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The second plot shows results from the three GSM operators from the Gambia, Orange from Senegal, GLO from Nigeria and Vodafone from Ghana. Among the rest, Nigeria has by far the cheapest Internet connection. This is consistency in all other GSM operators in Nigeria. The data collected does not include the bonuses they offer to their clients. E.g. A subscribe on GLO network gets almost 1GB bonus if they buy 2000 Naira equivalent to D262 data plan.

From the above graph, we can deduce the following interpretation.

  1. Roughly, the cost of 12GB in Nigeria or Senegal would yield 4GB in Ghana, 3.4GB for GAMCEL and about 3GB for Qcell and Africell. This will roughly cost D600

  2. Internet in Nigeria or Senegal is three times cheaper than the Internet in The Gambia.

  3. In simple terms, with D600 dalasis in those countries, you can watch ‘Oboy’s Bijirr Bajarr’ video 187 times on YouTube in high-quality mode whiles in the Gambia you can watch it only 53 times.

  4. Similarly, with D600 you can watch close to 10 full football matches in Nigeria and Senegal while in the Gambia you can at most only 3 full Games.

As illustrated above, the Internet is quite expensive in the Gambia compared to Nigeria and Senegal. Why is this the case? Is our government privy to such? If yes, what are they doing to bring this mess to a halt? I don’t have much knowledge in Telecommunication but I understand it is a very expensive but lucrative business. Are they just taking advantage of us the helpless? What happened to the much talk about ACE or submarine project?

I am not trying to compare apples and oranges here, but I pay £18.99 = D1246 for a super high-speed internet connection in my room. Its uptime is close to 99.99%. I am not saying this is what we should have in The Gambia at the moment but what we are getting is really very expensive and I hope the authorities understand this and act to improve the conditions.

In conclusion, I believe Internet is very expensive in The Gambia and the only winners are the service providers. If your Internet is being paid for by your employer or by someone then you will probably not understand what I am trying to put across and lucky you! Comparatively, Internet is not a critical issue for most people in the country but in the near feature, it will just be as important as Electricity! So the stakeholders should work hard to make sure the mess in NAWEC is not replicated in Telecom.

Nfams: Bax so you see what I mean?

Bax: Any way it is debatable.

Written By Sheriffo Ceesay
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