Eight African countries have begun setting up Internet exchange points as part of an ambitious project by the Internet Society and the African Union Commission, aimed at improving interconnectivity between countries and reducing connectivity costs.

Africa has been plagued by high Internet costs because most of the exchange points are in Europe. Several finer optic cables have been laid in the region, but costs are still high. In its effort to address the problem, the African Union teamed up with ISOC and signed an agreement in August this year, for training and setting up of national and regional IXPs under the African Internet Exchange System (AXIS), a project funded by the Euro-Africa Infrastructure Fund and the Government of Luxembourg.

"The project will be implemented in phases -- the first will be training and setting up of national IXPs, while the second phase, which is expected to start in 2013, will focus on setting up of regional IXPs," said Dawit Bekele, ISOC regional bureau director for Africa.

During the first phase, ISOC will organize 60 community-mobilization and technical-aspects training workshops, which will be spread over 24 months. IT industry representatives will also use that time to identify best practices and how to set up national IXPs. Training has already taken place in Burkina Faso, Senegal, Burundi, Gambia, Namibia, Guinea, Niger and Benin.

Meanwhile, an IXP has been launched in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), aimed at lowering connectivity costs, accelerating innovation and development of Internet services and supporting the implementation of e-government.

The Kinshasa IXP (KINIX) was funded through the Internet Society's community grants and managed by the DRC ISP Association (ISPA-DRC), as part of its DRC-IX project, which aims to establish IXPs in Kinshasa, Lubumbashi and Goma. KINIX is expected to improve local Internet resilience by eliminating the dependence on international connectivity for local Internet services.

Initially, KINIX will connect six IISPs: AfriNET, Cielux, Cybernet, Global Broadband Solutions, Microcom and Vodacom.  Twenty-six engineers from these ISPs, as well as employees from Central Bank of Congo; local universities; and the tax, customs and revenue authorities, among others, have received technical, hands-on training prior to the launch through ISOC Africa Interconnection and Traffic Exchange program.

The volatile country is largely dependent on satellite connectivity for its Internet access, and latencies for locally hosted content will be reduced significantly from over 500ms to less than 50ms through KINIX.  

The Internet Society's Africa Interconnection and Traffic Exchange program aims to have 80 percent of local Internet traffic exchanged in Africa by 2020.