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Mobile phone use in Africa on the rise: 2011 Report 1

“According to industry estimates, there are more than 500 million mobile phone subscribers in Africa now, up from 246 million in 2008,” says Madanmohan Rao Research Project Director at Mobile Monday.

In the report, “Mobile Africa Report 2011: Regional Hubs of Excellence and Innovation.” Rao says that in 2000, the number of mobile phones first exceeded that of fixed telephones. The four biggest mobile phone markets in Africa facilitating the rise of the use of cell phones are in Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, and Ghana. Strategic investors in Africa’s mobile industry include South Africa’s MTN, India’s Bharti Airtel, France Telecom (via its Orange brand), Britian’s Vodafone and Luxembourg’s Millicom. The mobile innovators’ network Mobile Monday is now in seven cities in Africa and targets a dozen cities in the coming years.

The largest fixed line broadband market is South Africa, followed in order of market size by Egypt, Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. According to Facebook statistics tracker Socialbakers, there were around 10.5 million Facebook users in Africa in 2010. Mobile broadband subscribers in Africa — users of data cards and USB devices via cellular 3G networks – crossed 3 million in September 2009 and were expected to break the 4 million milestone in the first quarter of 2010. In total, 4.54 Terabytes of cable capacity is available across 13 submarine cables in Africa. These will further expand to 24.5 Terabytes by 2011, according to Africa Analysis.

In 2008, imports of data enabled phones exceeded that of non-data enabled phones in many African markets. In 2009, the undersea cables hit East and Southern Africa in a big way. In 2010, mobile operators became serious about data availability and cost packaging for everyday Africans. 2011 is expected to bring a new type of data-enabled mobile user in Africa, and brings the mobile web to center stage.

McKinsey estimates Africa’s gross domestic product at about US $2.6 trillion, with US $1.4 in consumer spending. Africa’s population growth and urbanisation rates are among the highest in the world.

Yunkap Kwankam and Ntomambang Ningo, authors of the paper titled “Information Technology in Africa: A Proactive Approach,” maintain that African countries can bypass several stages in the use of ICTs.

On the technology front, Africans can accelerate development by skipping less efficient technologies and moving directly to more advanced ones. The telecommunications sector continues to attract a flurry of public and private investment.

Alex Twinomugisha in Nairobi, manager at Global e-Schools and Communities Initiative, says: “Telecom investment in sub-Saharan Africa is coming not only from foreign sources but also local banks. But the investment should be in software and services as well, not just cabling infrastructure.”


Mobile operators are offering competitive data plans and providing coverage for a vast stretch of the continent, renewing hope for a significant reduction in Internet access prices and wider connectivity on the continent. As mobile phone operators invest heavily in data connectivity, the resulting scramble for a share of both the corporate and the consumer markets has re-ignited the battle over Internet users.

“Mobile phone networks now cover three-quarters of the population in many African countries,” says Amos Kalunga, a telecom analyst from the Computer Society of Zambia.

Mobile phone operators are rolling out Internet services in order to capture a data market that up to now has not had the same high growth as the voice market experienced. Data services have become competitive as mobile operators aim to sustain their operations and increase sales following a leveling off of voice revenue.

Zambia’s telecommunication company  Zamtel recently announced a reduction in Internet connectivity from US$86 to $70 per month after the company invested $23 million in the installation of its New Generation Network (NGN) platform.

Zamtel’s goal is to increase Internet penetration from the current 10 percent. Over the next 30 months, Zamtel will spend close to US$170 million for the rollout of the 3G network in order to increase Internet penetration in both rural and urban areas, according to managing director Hans Paulsen. Airtel, with a presence in over 16 African countries, is also rolling out mobile Internet services.


In markets like South Africa, the nascent mobile TV market has recorded a “massive leap” in interest, according to the Mobility 2011 survey from World Wide Worx, which also found 39% of urban South Africans and 27% of rural dwellers are now browsing the Internet from their mobile phones.

One in ten of the survey’s respondents – from a pool of 1,400 consumers and businesses – indicated an interest in mobile TV, compared to just one in 100 recorded in previous years.

“Appetite has increased tenfold,” observes Arthur Goldstruck, managing director of Johannesburg-based consultancy World Wide Worx. Two of South Africa’s major mobile networks recently revealed rival devices to connect to the Internet using televisions as monitors. The devices are aimed at emerging markets where there is limited access to the Internet, but where TV penetration is typically very high.


Google is reporting record growth in sub-Saharan Africa, benefiting from 50 percent annual growth in search requests coming from the region. Google Business Development Associate Ayite Gaba revealed that four out of every 10 Google search requests come from a mobile phone.

Facebook now receives 100,000 new Senegalese users each month according to Gaba. Twitter recently played a massive part in Egypt’s revolution and the number of YouTube video plays in sub-Saharan Africa is doubling each year. But less than 10 percent of sub- Saharan Africa enjoys Internet access, hence the growing importance of mobile Internet.

“We are convinced by the potential of Africa and the importance it will play in the world,” according to Google’s Vice President for Operations in Eastern Europe, Southern Europe, Middle East, and Africa Carlo d’Asaro Blondo.

South of the Sahara, the number of YouTube plays is doubling each year, according to Gaba. Orange Uganda reported local traffic jump from 3Mbs to over 30Mbs in just two weeks due to partnering and implementing Google’s Global Cache.


“Mobile-savvy consumers want to do more for their phones and this presents opportunities for Africa’s banks and their merchant partners,” says Buzzcity’s K.F. Lai. In 1998 there were fewer than two million mobile phone users in Africa, according to the African Development Bank. The number grew to over 400 million in 2009.

Banks and other providers now recognise the potential of reaching millions of prospective customers, especially the rural population who account for more than 60% of Africa’s total population and have no access to banking services.

Complied by Staff writer – Afronline.

Full report: Zunia.

Additional information: Mobile Monday.

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