Africa is Now the World's Second Largest Mobile Market


The GSMA today announced that Africa is now the world's second largest mobile market by connections after Asia, and the fastest growing mobile market in the world. According to the new GSMA Africa Mobile Observatory 2011 report, Africa achieved this milestone as mobile penetration reached 649 million connections in Q4 2011 (having first exceeded 50 per cent mobile penetration in 2010). Over the past five years, the number of subscribers across Africa has grown by almost 20 per cent each year and will reach more than 735 million by the end of 2012.

Ninety-six per cent of subscriptions are pre-paid with voice services currently dominating, although uptake of data services is increasing steadily. There are currently six live HSPA+ networks across Africa, with a seventh deployment planned in the near future. By 2015, next-generation LTE networks are predicted to reach 500,000 connections in Kenya, 1.1 million connections in Nigeria and 2.5 million connections in South Africa.

The mobile ecosystem in Africa currently generates approximately US$56 billion or 3.5 per cent of total GDP, with mobile operators alone contributing US$49 billion. In recent studies by the World Bank and others, it was shown that there is a direct relationship between mobile penetration and GDP. In developing countries, for every 10 per cent increase in mobile penetration there is a 0.81 per cent point increase in a country's GDP. The mobile industry contributes US$15 billion in government revenues and is a significant contributor to employment in Africa. In 2010 alone, approximately 5.4 million people were employed directly and indirectly in the mobile ecosystem.

However, the Observatory reveals that huge untapped potential remains. 36 per cent of Africans within the 25 largest African mobile markets currently have no access to mobile services. Projections indicate that reaching 100 per cent mobile penetration could add over $35 billion in aggregate GDP - an increase of 2 per cent - but only if governments and operators work together to bring mobile communication to the entire African population.

"The mobile industry in Africa is booming and a catalyst for immense growth, but there is scope for far greater development," said Peter Lyons, Director of Spectrum Policy, Africa and Middle East, GSMA. "To take full advantage of its potential, African countries need to both allocate more spectrum for the provision of Mobile Broadband services, as well as introduce tax cuts for the industry. By doing so, they will increase consumption of mobile services, thereby boosting their economic and social development."

African countries have currently allocated considerably less spectrum to mobile services than Europe, the Americas and Asia, which is inhibiting connectivity to large swathes of rural Africa. Sufficient spectrum should be provided for Mobile Broadband services through 3G HSPA and LTE technologies, to enable the mobile industry to 'connect the unconnected' and continue to act as a catalyst for growth.