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The Bandwidth Consortium: Opening the Power of the Internet to African Universities

Updated: 5 September 2008


In 2005, with support from four major U.S. foundations, a coalition of African universities and higher education organizations known as the Bandwidth Consortium (BWC) arrived at an agreement with a satellite service provider to bring vastly expanded Internet bandwidth, at approximately one-third the cost, to academic institutions on the continent. Bandwidth capacity is what governs the speed at which information can be uploaded to and downloaded from the Internet.

The Partnership for Higher Education in Africa is pleased to announce that the Nigerian ICT Forum has been selected by BWC client consensus to serve as the new, permanent host for the Consortium as of November 1, 2008. ICT Forum becomes the third host of the BWC, following the African Virtual University and the International Development Research Centre.

The current members of the Bandwidth Consortium supported by the Partnership are:

  • University of Dar es Salaam (Tanzania)
  • Makerere University (Uganda)
  • University of Ghana (Ghana)
  • University of Education, Winneba (Ghana)
  • University of Ibadan (Nigeria)
  • Obafemi Awolowo University (Nigeria)
  • Ahmadu Bello University (Nigeria)
  • Bayero University (Nigeria)
  • Port Harcourt University (Nigeria)
  • University of Jos (Nigeria)
  • Association of African Universities (Ghana)
  • Kenya Education Network (Kenya)

In addition, the BWC counts some 25 other African institutions of higher education among its members. All in all, the Consortium is currently purchasing 120 Mbps of bandwidth and expects to grow substantially in the years ahead.

About the Bandwidth Consortium

The Bandwidth Consortium is a major collaborative project of the Partnership for Higher Education in Africa, an initiative that began in 2000 to build on momentum within Africa to revitalize institutions of higher education. The foundations -- initially Ford, MacArthur, Rockefeller, and Carnegie Corporation of New York -- invested more than $150 million in Partnership projects as of September 2005. Over the next five years the foundations, now joined by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the Kresge Foundation will invest an additional $200 million.

Bandwidth is a major expense for African universities, with service currently provided by a patchwork of providers. According to a report prepared by the Bandwidth Consortium of the Partnership for Higher Education in Africa, consumers in Europe and North America typically pay $100 a month or less for far more bandwidth than African universities obtain for $10,000 per month. In all but a handful of African countries, less than two percent of the population is online.

Comments on the Bandwidth Initiative

Mamman Aminu Ibrahim, Convenor of the Nigeria ICT Forum of Partnership Institutions:

"When African universities have the capacity to connect with the Internet at speeds approaching those available to others around the world, we will have taken one of the most important steps possible in our efforts to become a full member of the world’s academic community. This is technology that is central to the transformation of higher education in Africa."

Dr. Francis F. Tusubira, Associate Professor and Director, Directorate for ICT Support at Makerere University:

"As dramatic as this change will be, the universities recognize that bandwidth delivered by satellite is only part of what the future will bring. The long-term and sustainable approach has to be connection to the international fiber optic cable networks or other future solutions. University members of the partnership universities will continue working with their governments to develop national policies and strategies that promote and ensure increased and affordable access to the Internet, based always on the best technologies."


Nigeria ICT Forum of Partnership Institutions:

Partnership for Higher Education in Africa:

Association of African Universities:

Bayero University:

Kenya Education Network:

Makerere University:

Obafemi Awolowo University:

University of Dar es Salaam:

University of Education Winneba:

University of Ghana:

University of Ibadan:

University of Port Harcourt:


For the Bandwidth Consortium: Sandra Aluoch, +254 722 594 579

For the Partnership on Higher Education in Africa: John Schoneboom, +1-212-998-5514

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