Calls in and out of sub-Saharan Africa have long been among the world’s most costly, strangling business opportunities and burdening ordinary people. Services have been tightly controlled by government-owned telephone companies, many of which are rife with corruption and incompetence. Governments also imposed high tariffs on international calls, seeing it as a lucrative source of revenue.
But now, thanks to what is called voice-over-Internet, phone alternatives are flourishing, sharply lowering costs and expanding opportunities for business and consumers in some of the poorest places on earth even as they pose a competitive threat to government-sanctioned telephone companies.
Sending telephone calls over the Internet is gaining ground in Africa because it makes possible a range of new services, linking the sub-Saharan to the world’s major industrial centers in ways unimaginable only a few years ago. And better digital connections, mostly via satellite, are raising the hope that Ghana the most peaceful country in a West African region besieged by civil wars and ethnic strife may become the regional hub for an information-technology industry.