But before we can ask the Net Neutrality question for Africa, we need to take a step back and unpack the motivation behind Net Neutrality. Coined by Tim Wu, a Canadian academic living in the US, Net Neutrality reflects the idea that “Internet service providers (ISPs) and governments should treat all data on the Internet equally, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, and modes of communication.” The central motivation in Net Neutrality is that we are all created equal on the Internet and that it works the same for everyone.
For Africans the Internet will never really be neutral. Apparently flat and stateless, the Internet is concentrated in places like the US and Europe. African countries have to pay a lot of money just to get to the front door. Vast investment in undersea cables has been necessary to become part of the Internet. And while neutrality reigns in Internet peering and transit in places like London and Amsterdam, African ISPs have to pay a lot of money just to get to these peering points. Worse, in many sub-Saharan African countries where only one undersea cable lands, that cable is controlled by an incumbent telco who extracts maximum rent for access to that international pipe.
– From Net Neutrality in Africa by Steve Song.