Sub-Saharan Africa lost $1.74 billion in 2023 due to government-induced Internet shutdowns

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January 8, 2024
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3 min read
A screen showing the Internet in a red background with the "@" symbol
  • According to a recent report by Top10vpn, an international VPN review website, government-induced Internet shutdowns resulted in a global economic loss of over $9 billion in 2023, affecting 747 million people.
  • Sub-Saharan Africa came in second after Europe, with $1.74 billion in losses spread over 30,785 hours and affecting 84.8 million Internet users. After Asia, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region ranked fourth with a $1.44 billion financial loss and 16,547 hours of disruption impacting 105.04 million users.
  • Russia suffered a higher financial loss of $4.02 billion, while Ethiopia, the oldest independent nation in Africa, came in second with a loss of $1.9 billion, above Iran's $920.3 million.

Interestingly, North America experienced a 2-hour Internet outage in 2023, affecting 7.99 million Internet users and incurring a $1.8 million loss. South America, on the other hand, lost $79.9 million due to an Internet disruption that lasted 62 hours and affected 192.04 million users. 

Per the report, school exams are the leading cause of Internet outages, along with protests, information control, conflict, military coups, and election interference.

In mid-November last year, Telegram was periodically blocked for over a week in Kenya due to an alleged leak of secondary school exam papers on the platform. This social media shutdown lasted 192 hours and cost $27 million in Internet restrictions.

Furthermore, due to religious tensions, authorities in Ethiopia restricted access to major platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, Telegram, and TikTok. This situation, which involved an Internet blackout lasting 3,414 hours and a social media shutdown lasting 11,496 hours, incurred a financial loss of  $1.59 billion. 

Moreover, in response to widespread protests, Senegal experienced a series of Internet blackouts and social media shutdowns from June to August. Following widespread protests in early June 2023, four Internet blackouts occurred within the next few days, and several social media platforms were blocked nationwide.

The impacts are 135 hours of Internet blackouts, 3,811 hours of social media shutdowns, and a total cost of Internet restrictions amounting to $57.4 million.

Other African nations — Algeria, Guinea, Sudan, Tanzania, Cuba, Chad, and Zimbabwe — are also listed among the countries in the world that experienced financial loss due to government-induced Internet blackouts or restrictions on social media.

Over time, X (formerly Twitter) has been the most restricted social media platform. According to the report, the platform experienced 10,683 hours of intentional disruption —- 18% higher than Instagram and 26% more than TikTok.

Similarly, in 2022, a total of 114 Internet shutdowns occurred across 23 countries, totaling 50,095 hours and resulting in a financial loss of $24.61 billion. In 2021, 50 Internet outages occurred in 21 countries, lasting 30,179 hours and costing $5.45 billion.

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2020 saw 93 Internet shutdowns across 21 countries, lasting 27,165 hours and incurring expenses amounting to $4.01 billion. In 2019, there were 134 Internet shutdowns recorded across 22 countries, lasting 19,207 hours and resulting in a financial loss of $8.07 billion.

The total financial loss incurred due to Internet outages in 2023 decreased by 67% compared to 2022 but increased by 45% compared to 2021. The duration of these shutdowns increased by 18% in 2022 and by 71.5% in 2021. 

Shutting down the Internet has several consequences, including a loss of communication, information, and service access, which could seriously disrupt people's lives. 

Shutdowns of the Internet can also result in a reduction in economic growth and a loss of investment and business opportunities.

It is important to recognise that Internet shutdowns infringe upon people's human rights and freedom of speech. The United Nations has condemned Internet shutdowns, saying they are "inherently disproportionate and unjustified" and "cannot be justified under international human rights law."


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