FULL TEXT: Why Web Hosting Is Expensive In Africa (The Zimbabwe Case)

This article is about Africa in general but to make my point I’ll use Zimbabwe as this is where I stay. However, the situation is the same in most of Africa because the underlying problem is similar. I have to say however there are a few countries where the situation has changed, and South Africa is one of them. Kenya and Nigeria also seem to be changing. Let’s get into it.

Most of the websites in Zimbabwe are hosted outside the country. This website, for example, is hosted in the United Kingdom. This is because it’s generally cheaper to host one’s website outside Zimbabwe than inside. Zimbabwe is expensive in 3 ways:

  • The price tag for web hosting. That is much you pay per month
  • The uptime. Also referred to as availability – this is how much your website will be accessible to the public. If your website is down 10% of the time, then we say that it has 90% availability.
  • You need to have some technical skills to set up your website. Compared to hosts such as WordPress.com, GoDaddy and others, to host a website with ZOL Zimbabwe, for example, you really need to know what you’re doing technically just to get going.

1. Price For Web Hosting

Here’s a comparison of the prices for one of the most popular hosts locally (Webdev) and one of the most popular hosts internationally (GoDaddy)

ProjectPurchase Price (min)VATTotal MinDeposit RequiredAverage Size Range (m2)
Woodville NorthUSD 20,000USD 3,000USD 23,000 USD 10,0004,000
PaddonhurstUSD 10,000USD 1,500 USD 11,500USD 5,500800
Various repossessed (Serviced)USD 10,000USD 1,500 USD 11,500USD 5,500600
It is important however that if getting USDs is not easy for you, the local host has an option for you to pay in the local currency equivalent. The high price of web hosting is generally because of reasons in 2 but there’s another separate reason which is economic. The number of customers looking for local web hosting is still very low which means right now when a company invests in having a good hosting package, they’re going to have to spread those costs over a few customers. In the end, not many companies are willing to invest in something that not many people will afford. Or, put another way, not many companies are willing to invest on a bet that they’ll be able to convince enough people to start hosting locally. It’s a chicken and egg. Someone has to put their money to change the balance and so far no one seems to have.

2. Uptime

As mentioned already, the uptime is about the percentage of time that your website is accessible (or as they call it in tech “up). Zimbabwe still has a lot of issues in terms of ensuring that website are always up. Here are a few:

  • ZESA, the national power utility does not generally provide power 247. This means that your web host has to provide their own power when ZESA blacks out. This is part of the reason why hosting priced more in Zimbabwe – it is because it also costs the hosting company more to keep things up. Outside Zimbabwe, blackouts are not common which means that even though the hosting company would invest in backup power solutions, the number of times the backup actually is needed is lower. The lower number of switchovers translates to better stability and uptime.
  • Backup power might not always work. In addition to the national power utility being unpredictable, Zimbabwe also has fuel supply problems which means if the hosting company relies on generators, they might not have the fuel when they need it.
  • The technical skills needed to keep websites up are expensive. People with technical skills have generally fled to South Africa and other countries globally to work there. Where a hosting company is lucky to have some skills, the employees demand high pay. This then contributes to the high cost of hosting.
  • Even if your hosting company has competent technical people, not all ISPs in Zimbabwe have them. This means that if an incompetent techie at ISP A misconfigures their network and they accidentally impede access to your hosting company’s network, that ISPs customers will not be able to access your website. While this can also happen to internationally hosting websites, the likelihood is lower and if it does happen, it is likely to be detected and corrected much sooner as it would affect many people.
  • Hosting equipment and its spare parts are paid for in Forex and Zimbabwe is going through a forex crisis so your hosting company may not always have access to the spares equipment they need to keep things up. Where they are lucky to have a way of getting the forex, it’s through the black market, which generally drives up the cost of hosting.

3. Technical skills

This is pretty self-explanatory so I will not break it down further.   Happy to hear your thoughts on this in the comments below so we can discuss how these problems can be solved

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ZOL ZimbabweWebdevZesa

ZOL is one of the biggest internet service providers in Zimbabwe with a growing coverage base which includes most of the country's major cities such as Harare and Bulawayo. The company provides fibre, VSAT and wireless Internet services to a large range of clients from... Read More About ZOL Zimbabwe

Webdev is a internet company based in Zimbabwe which is part of the African continental group of companies called [[[ROAM]]. Webdev operates a payments gateway called Paynow, a bills payments website called TopUp, a web development company called Webdev, and a marketplace websites; Classifieds.co.zw and... Read More About Webdev

The Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority Holdings is the country's biggest power producer and regulating company. It operates under the Ministry and Energy and Power Development and it runs a number of subsidiary companies with various specialities in power regulation and communications. Read More About Zesa

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