Sub-Saharan Africa is one of the world’s fastest-growing mobile regions.
More than half the population of Sub-Saharan Africa will be signed up for a mobile phone plan by 2025, according to a new report.
The latest edition of the GSMA (Global System for Mobile Communications)’s Mobile Economy report series predicts there will be 634 million unique mobile subscribers across Sub-Saharan Africa by 2025, equivalent to 52 percent of the population. That would be up from 444 million (44 percent) at the end of 2017. The report also calculates that the mobile ecosystem will add more than $150 billion in value to Sub-Saharan Africa’s economy by 2022, equivalent to almost eight percent of regional GDP.
“For many citizens across the region, particularly those living in rural areas, a mobile phone is not just a communications device but also the primary channel for getting online and a vital tool for improving their lives,” says John Giusti, GSMA chief regulatory officer. “More needs to be done to extend connectivity to the remaining unconnected and underserved populations across Sub-Sahara Africa, but this will require a focus on long-term industry sustainability that can only be achieved through investment-friendly policies and supportive regulatory frameworks.”
Making phones more affordable
Sub-Saharan Africa has been the world’s fastest-growing mobile region in recent years, but subscriber growth is slowing as the industry faces the challenges of affordability and a youthful population. The region’s current mobile penetration rate (44 percent of the population) is significantly below the global average of 66 percent. Further, according to the World Bank, around 40 percent of the population in the region are under 16 years old, a demographic segment that has significantly lower levels of mobile ownership than the population as a whole.
However, despite these challenges, more people are buying smartphones. A big reason is lower device costs – which is also, unsurprisingly, leading to an increase in people using 3G and 4G mobile broadband services. That increase is expected to be pretty large in the future, too, with the GSMA report predicting that mobile broadband will account for 87 percent of mobile connections in Sub-Saharan Africa by 2025 – up from 38 percent in 2017. Moreover, nearly 300 million new subscribers are expected to use their devices to access mobile Internet services in the next seven years.
Increasing contributions to economic growth, innovation and sustainable development
The GSMA report says that, last year, mobile technologies and services accounted for 7.1 percent of GDP across Sub-Saharan Africa, a contribution that amounted to $110 billion of economic value added. By 2022, the region’s mobile economy is forecast to generate more than $150 billion (7.9 percent of GDP) of economic value as countries continue to benefit from improvements in productivity and efficiency, particularly due to the increase in mobile Internet use. The region’s mobile ecosystem also supported three million jobs in 2017, and contributed almost $14 billion to the funding of the public sector in the form of general taxation as well as sector-specific levies on mobile services.
The report also includes examples of how mobile networks and services are playing a key role in delivering the UN’s Sustainable Developments Goals (SDGs), as well as supporting a fast-growing tech start-up ecosystem. Many tech start-ups in Africa now use mobile as the primary platform to create solutions that address a range of socioeconomic challenges.
“Sub-Saharan Africa’s mobile industry is showing strong progress in achieving the targets of the SDGs, predominantly through increased connectivity and access to information, but also through the delivery of services, such as mobile money, that increase productivity, improve well-being and reduce poverty,” says the GSMA’s Giusti.
The report was released at the GSMA’s Mobile 360 – Africa event, taking place this week in the Rwandan capital of Kigali.