54% of Africa's population is expected to subscribe to mobile phone services by 2020 ©ICT4D.at
54% of Africa's population is expected to subscribe to mobile phone services by 2020 ©ICT4D.at

Mobile internet expected to boom in Africa

4 August 2016

Nearly half of Africa’s population is now subscribed to mobile services paving the way for improved access to a range of social and financial services, according to a study by the GSMA.

Writing in The Mobile Economy: Africa 2016, the GSMA, which represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide, said there were 557m unique mobile subscribers across Africa at the end of 2015, equivalent to 46% of the continent’s population.

While these figures mean Africa has lower mobile phone penetration than any other continent it also has the largest potential market.

Mobile phone services and the supply chain in Africa supported 3.8m jobs in 2015 and contributed $17bn in tax revenue. And these figures are predicted to rise to 4.5m and $20.5bn respectively by 2020.

The number of subscribers is forecast to reach 725m – or 54% of the population by 2020. The continent’s three largest markets – Egypt, Nigeria and South Africa – represented around a third of the total subscriber base.

Mobile broadband subscribers accounted for just over a quarter of total connections but are expected to account for almost two-thirds by 2020 due to network rollouts and the increasingly affordable broadband devices and tariffs.

The number of smart phone connections in Africa is forecast to more than triple by 2020 from 226m in 2015 to 720m.

Meanwhile mobile technologies and services across Africa generated $153bn in economic value last year, or 6.7% of GDP, which is expected to rise to $214bn by 2020 (7.6% of expected GDP).

The report also found mobile technology was helping address social challenges in Africa by helping provide official identities, tackling the digital divide, and helping facilitate financial transactions via mobile money services.

While the number of mobile subscribers in Africa that access the mobile internet has tripled in the last five years to 300m by 2015 a further 250m subscribers are expected to become active by 2020, bringing the total to 550m, or 41% of the population.

“The positive transformational impact of mobile is being felt more profoundly in Africa than anywhere else in the world,” said Mats Granryd, director general, GSMA.

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