countries (relative to gross national product (GNP) per capita or to average monthly salaries), which in many countries limits Internet use to the elite few. Of course, new technologies initially demanding a high price is a phenomenon not unique to African countries or to the Internet. Moreover, prices do vary from country to country, and as more providers enter the market, Internet use likely will spread among all sectors of the economy and access charges should drop.
The committee's research confirms the importance of policies that promote information technologies and strong institutions with experienced capable people. In Senegal, Ghana, and Kenya the committee heard from Internet service providers (ISPs) who were able to decrease access prices and improve service as a result of recent government policy reforms.
While Africa as a whole can be considered to have a relatively poor telecommunications infrastructure compared to the United States or Western Europe, differences certainly exist among African countries and cities, and marked differences exist between major urban areas and the rest of the continent. The following sections provide some country-specific information on Senegal and Ghana, the two countries visited by the committee in August 1997. Box 1 and Box 2 give a brief summary of the history of Internet development in Senegal and Ghana, respectively.
Senegal is located on the west coast of Africa and has a population just under 10 million. It is one of Africa's oldest democracies and has an independent press and judiciary and a flourishing private sector. Its economy, which is dominated by agriculture, is showing signs of improvement after years of staguation and falling GNP per capita. A devaluation of the currency in 1994 and a new government reform program have led to growth in both GNP and GNP per capita, decreased inflation, and increases in agricultural production. In 1995 the GNP per capita was $570.