Project Update

Monday 8 January 2024

Advancing Digital Africa: Empowering Internet Exchange Points (IXPs) in Benin, Malawi, and Rwanda

Megan Kruse, Director, Advocacy and Communications

Advancing Digital Africa: Empowering Internet Exchange Points (IXPs) in Benin, Malawi, and Rwanda

In an age where connectivity is a cornerstone of progress and development, the need for quality Internet infrastructure cannot be overstated. This year, the Internet Society joined the Coalition for Digital Africa, an initiative launched by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) aimed at strengthening Internet infrastructure across the continent.                        

ISOC and ICANN partnered in a project under the auspices of the Coalition to help empower IXPs in the continent, taking on the goal of enhancing five Internet Exchange Points (IXPs) across Africa to improve Internet access by making it faster and more affordable.

We’re thrilled to announce significant progress toward this goal in 2023 by awarding grants to three IXPs in Benin, Malawi, and Rwanda. IXPs play a pivotal role in Internet infrastructure by facilitating the exchange of Internet traffic between various networks. By fostering direct interconnection between Internet service providers (ISPs), content providers, and other network operators, IXPs streamline data traffic, reduce latency, and ultimately enhance the overall Internet experience for users. They enable a conducive ecosystem that encourages innovation, leading to a dynamic digital economy by creating jobs in the tech industry, attracting services through business process outsourcing, and more.

The Coalition’s IXP initiative grants underscore our dedication to its mission to bridge the digital divide and drive digital transformation across the continent.

Empowering Connectivity in Benin

The Benin Internet Exchange (BeninIX) has made improvements to its technical infrastructure and organized strategic initiatives like community events and capacity building workshops on the advantages of efficient Internet traffic exchange. BeninIX has also worked with Internet Society’s guidance to create a comprehensive business plan to ensure the IXP's long-term viability. By providing financial assistance and technical resources, we elevate the efficiency and reliability of Internet services, thereby empowering businesses, educational institutions, and individuals.

Strengthening Networks in Malawi

The Malawi ISP Association (MISPA) will install a second IXP in Lilongwe (LLIX) to serve and cover the central region of Malawi. This enhances local capability to accommodate increasing demands for Internet connectivity. With improved infrastructure and operational support, the IXP will contribute significantly to the country's digital landscape, fostering innovation and socioeconomic growth.

Catalyzing Progress in Rwanda

Rwanda Internet Community and Technology Alliance (RICTA) conducted comprehensive training, facilitated by the Internet Society, to improve the technical skills of engineers within the community. The training covered the skills needed to effectively use RINEX infrastructure and provided an in-depth understanding of its role in the operations and daily services RICTA provides to Rwandan citizens and the Rwanda Internet ecosystem at large.

These grants are more than just financial contributions; they represent a commitment to fostering sustainable development and prosperity through digital empowerment. By strengthening IXPs in these countries, we lay the groundwork for a more interconnected, innovative, and resilient digital future.

More to Come in 2024

These grants mark a stride forward, yet they represent only a part of our ongoing commitment to the continent's digital transformation. In 2024, we plan to support two more IXPs in Africa through the Sustainable Peering Infrastructure Funding Program. Applications will open on 16 January 2024 and are open to any IXP.

We will work with local communities to build IXPs in markets where they are needed, enhance existing IXPs to realize their full potential, and further develop organizations and communities that support peering and interconnection. Grant funds are available to assist in training, capacity building, community and regional development, and equipment purchases (switches, optic modules, servers, and routers).

Stay tuned for further updates on our initiatives and collaborations as we continue to pave the way for a digitally connected Africa.