Somalia is currently losing about $10 million a day to an ongoing Internet shutdown that has crippled government and economic activities in the country, including the capital Mogadishu.
Officials say the outage is caused by a damage to the undersea fiber optic-cable serving Somalia. Post and Telecommunications Minister Abdi Anshur Hassan said at a press conference that the country had lost more than $130 million so far to the outage, which has lasted about two weeks.
“The average loss [due to the] lack of Internet services is about $10 million per day. We lost $130 million (about Sh13.5 billion) only in the past two weeks, after missing the services which was the lifeline of our people,” Hassan said.
And while Somali authorities say the government is working to restore Internet service as quickly as possible, the outage has sparked public discontent with many business owners complaining of heavy revenue losses.
“I have remained jobless due to lack of Internet service. I have lost $1,300 (about Sh135,000) in the past two weeks,” Abdirashid Moalim Yusuf, a web developer, told Xinhua in Mogadishu.
Somalia is struggling to emerge from more than two decades of conflict and a more recent violent insurgency by the Islamist group al-Shabaab that has seriously impeded the chances of any meaningful development in the country.
A 2014 report by the International Telecommunication Union says Internet penetration is low in Somalia with just 1.6 percent of the population online.
Three years ago the government completely shutdown 3G mobile phone services in the southern part of the country due to threats from al-Shabaab fighters.
Quartz reports that there were Internet outages in at least 11 African countries in 2016 alone, with many of the shutdowns being related to elections since authorities insisted that the measure was necessary to prevent a breakdown of law and order.
With general elections scheduled to be held in at least five African countries, including Rwanda, Kenya, Angola, and Liberia, in the second half of 2017, activists and Internet users fear that more Internet shutdowns may be on the way.