The rise and rise of mobile phone use in Africa

After moving from an accounted sales of 90 million mobile phones in 2005 to an estimated 450 million in 2012, Africa has not only become the world’s second largest mobile phone market after Asia, but it is also the fastest growing market in the world. This is according to GSMA.

From banking, to education, to entertainment and even activism, mobile use has certainly revolutionized the lives of many Africans. This has largely been aided by digital enterprises on the continent, which have sparked a range of user friendly applications making mobile the PC of Africa.

Cell phone penetration

At the launch, Ferreira added that Nigeria, Africa’s second largest economy, with a reach of 41 percent, has the highest cellphone penetration on the continent. South Africa, the continent’s greatest attractor of foreign investment, followed with a 31 percent penetration, with east Africa’s tech hub, Kenya, trailing on a 7 percent reach.

Already, large companies such as Google, Samsung and apple are setting shop on the continent in a bid to tap this new market.

Reason for growth

Investors are already facilitating the set up spaces where developers, investors and tech companies are able to interact and share ideas.

These include iHub and iLab in Kenya, Co-Creation hub in Nigeria, ICEAddis in Ethiopia, KINU in Tanzania iLab in Liberia and Jokko Labs Senegal.

Samsung Electronics West Africa’s mobile business leader for Nigeria, Emmanuel Revmatas, noted that the advent of new privately-owned submarine cables (some of which are optic-fibres), and their landing on the coast of East and West African nations, have significantly reduced the cost of internet service and escalated the acceptance of smartphones.

“Mobile broadband penetration has increased tremendously over the last few years and all across Africa, we are witnessing continued investment in infrastructure by most of the network operators, making it possible for telecom subscribers to take full advantage of world of endless opportunities that smart devices like the Samsung Galaxy Note II offers,” said Revmatas.

Scrambling for this all important new market

Major brands like Nokia and LG keep shipping millions of cellphones to Africa – a market with high utility, constantly consuming new products. As recognition of the indisputable importance of the market, manufacturers add functional features like in-built radio and torchlight to products moving to the electricity-starved continent.

Last October, for the first time ever, the number of Nigerians accessing the internet via their mobiles surpassed the number of desktop internet users, figures from Statcounter show.

The trend has continued since then. Most of those devices will be low-end Nokia phones, tens of millions of which have already been sold on the continent. The more expensive “smartphones” are however also increasing in popularity, as prices drop. Blackberry’s market share has been rising in the developing world, bucking the trend in Europe and North America.

Google, for its part, plans to sell 200 million of its Android phones in Africa and it is estimated that by 2016 there will be a billion mobile phones on the continent.

Last October, Samsung said from January 2013 it would begin integrating African content, including languages on its phones, in an effort to appeal more to the market responsible for about 40 percent of its phone sales.

Samsung’s arch rival is not far off behind. Apple has laid down plans to leverage on the development and further deepen smartphone penetration on the continent, expanding its share of the increasing market across Africa. With the first official Apple store open in South Africa, things can only get better.


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Written by Regina Timothy

Editor of TechNews Report. Loves all things technology

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