East African Youth Spending Billions On Airtime

Digital Content

A new study on mobile telephone use among East African youth shows that they spend billions of shillings monthly on airtime purchase. The three week study by Kenyan based research firm Consumer Insight that covered 3,600 youth aged between 7-24 years shows that their monthly mobile airtime expenditure stands at $70 million monthly (Sh 6.3 billion). This totals to Sh75.6 billion annually.

East Africa's leading mobile telephone company Safaricom realised a turnover of Sh94 billion in 2010. According to the study, Kenyan youth top the list with a monthly expenditure of $38 million (Sh3.4 billion), followed by Uganda and Tanzania at $20 million (Sh1.8 billion) and $12 million (Sh1.1 billion) respectively.

The study further reveals that whereas there were no significant numbers of mobile lines amongst the youth in the region few years ago, the situation is now completely different with 52 percent of all East African youth claiming to have active sim cards (94 percent of those have handsets).

Sixty two percent of these youths have one sim card and 23 percent have 2 sim cards. Eighty Eight percent of East Africa youth aged 20-24 are active sim card owners, followed by youth aged 13-19 and 7-12 at 45 percent and 6 percent respectively. Kenyan youth are the most active sim card owners (64 percent), followed by Uganda and Tanzania youths at 53 percent and 41 percent respectively. In this category, male lead at 55 percent, followed by female at 50 percent.

According to the study, the major barrier for unconnected youth from acquiring a mobile phone is parental or institutional restriction, although cost of handset is still a barrier at less than 20 percent.

The study also revealed that slightly over a third (35 percent) of all the youth in East Africa are connected to the internet, with chatting being the most dominant activity. More than half (68 percent) are on social networks, 90 percent of which are on Facebook and 17 percent on twitter. Kenyan youths are the most connected (49 percent), followed by Tanzanian and Ugandan youths at 30 percent and 26 percent respectively.