LAGOS, Nigeria—Despite some of the lowest Internet penetration rates in the world, Africa has enticed Google Inc.
Lured by the continent’s growth potential, Google aims to convince entrepreneurs, students and aid workers to make use of its search, mapping and mobile-phone technologies. But Africa—with roughly one billion inhabitants, over 50 countries and many regions that have limited access to electricity—presents huge obstacles.
“The Internet is not an integral part of everyday life for people in Africa,” said Joe Mucheru of Google’s Kenya office.
Africa lags far behind other big emerging markets in Internet use. Africa has 4% of global Internet users; China has 21%.
The continent also has some of the world’s highest costs for mobile-phone and Internet service. In Nigeria, bandwidth for Internet carriers costs $3,000 to $6,000 a month per megabyte, according to Nyimbi Odero of Google’s Nigeria office.
By comparison, the cost in the U.K. is about $20 a month per megabyte.
Despite the expense of Internet service, Google executives say Africa represents one of the fastest growth rates for Internet use in the world. Nigeria already has about 24 million users and South Africa and Kenya aren’t far behind, according to the World Bank and research sites like Internet World Stats.
“The goal is to get more people online,” said Estelle Akofio-Sowah, the Google country head in Ghana.
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