Top 10 mobile Markets in Mid-East and Africa: Kenya knocks out Tunisia


Tunisia has been in and out of the ranking of the top 10 MEA markets by customer base over the past year. It was pushed out by Iraq in Q2 2006, only to be reinstated three months later as Kenya failed to register any growth as a result of mass disconnections by Celtel. Having held its tenth place in December, a resurgent Kenya has once again ousted Tunisia, which falls to 11th place in the ranking for March 2007. In so doing, Kenya also bumps Israel down to tenth, a place which we expect Tunisia to take once more in the near future - in fact it is possible that it has already has with the end of Q2 2007 just over a week ago.

For Q1 2007, at least, Israel's 7.8m customers marked the barrier for entry into the top 10. Kenya was a little way ahead with 8.4m and Iraq the same distance in front of Kenya with 9.0m customers. From eighth placed Iraq up to first placed South Africa the ranking remains as it was three months ago in the review for the fourth quarter of 2006, although the relative positioning of the occupants of the places has changed.

At the head of the table, Nigeria is catching South Africa, reducing a deficit of 5.4m at the end of 2006 to only 3.4m customers at the end of Q1 2007. We expect Nigeria to become the Middle East & Africa's largest market by connections before the third quarter is out, although this does not necessarily signify that the number of real mobile users is higher. In fourth place, Saudi Arabia got to within 350k customers of Algeria and may well already have taken its third place, whilst fifth placed Egypt closed the gap on both of them. Morocco's sixth place is also under threat from Iran, which cut the gap by 80% from 1.68m to just 0.33m during Q1 2007.

Three months ago, Mobile World looked at the size of the mobile markets in the ten largest countries in the MEA region, since four of this list are not in the current top ten ranking by customers shown in the chart above. The most likely member of this group to claim its rightful place is Tanzania, which lay in 12th place with 6.2m customers at the end of Q1 2007 but is in fact the continent's eighth most populous country. The most likely casualty will once again be Tunisia, which is likely to have taken back tenth place from Israel in the meantime. Next to enter the top ten could be either Sudan or the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Democratic Republic of Congo is the larger country, with a population of 64.1m to Sudan's 42m, but it was Sudan which stood further ahead in the ranking by customer numbers, with a base of 5.6m to Congo's 5.1m at the end of Q1 2007.

The fourth rightful member of the top 10 is Ethiopia, MEA's third largest country by population, although it will most likely be several years before this market enters the top 10, finishing Q1 2007 as it did with a customer base of 1.4m. In the long run, by implication, Algeria, Saudi Arabia and Iraq should all lose their top 10 places (in addition to the aforementioned Israel) although if penetration rates follow the European model - and there is no reason to believe they won't - the situation is unlikely to prove to be this simple.

(Source: Mobile World)