Central Africa markets fail to get the attention they deserve, says new report

Top Story

It is easy but lazy to talk about Africa for the continent contains fifty plus countries all of which are completely different in some way. Whilst operators like to think they are considering the continent as a single market, they often unconsciously avoid some countries because there is less information about their potential. In order to rectify this position, Balancing Act has just published African Telecoms and Internet Markets – Part 2: Central Africa which for the first time provides detailed information on the sub-region's eight countries.

Central Africa contains some of the fastest growing markets on the continent. Oil-rich Equatorial Guinea and Gabon are both making considerable investments in the communications sector. DRC is the second largest country by area in the whole continent and is emerging from civil war: it may have hardly any roads but its telecoms and Internet sectors are growing at above average rates. Recently it signed a deal with a Chinese financial institution to underwrite a fibre link between Kinshasa and Angola that would give it access to the international fibre routes. The report contains detailed estimates of the pent-up demand in the country that would rapidly expand with the availability of cheaper bandwidth.

Both Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea still have only two mobile operators and others have only three operators: if these countries follow trends elsewhere, more will enter the market. Warid has already gone into Congo-Brazzaville. There are four potential privatisations of incumbents (Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo-Brazzaville and Chad) which will need to come with mobile licences if they are to sell. Only Cameroon’s Camtel has announced the process so far. Sao Tome and Principe is Africa’s smallest market but currently has only one operator but has announced that markets will be liberalised. No single mobile operator dominates the sub-region and this provides fertile ground for new market entrants.

With the exception of Gabon where saturation point may soon be reached, all of these countries experienced very rapid growth in mobile subscribers over the last three years. However, the region still has some of the continent's most expensive voice and data prices. Again with increased competition and access to cheaper international fibre prices, the number of subscribers is likely to continue to climb.

Balancing Act’s African Telecoms and Internet Market’s Part 2: Central Africa is the most detailed current description of these eight markets which include: Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo-Brazzaville, DRC, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and Sao Tome and Principe. For five out of the eight countries the author either lives in the country or has recently visited it. The report is 151 pages long and has 33 tables, 7 charts, 2 graphics and full page maps illustrating GSM coverage and networks in each country. It also includes a spreadsheet that summarises data from 2005 and 2008 (see right-hand column).

The report opens with an overview of data and significant trends across all eight countries. This includes comparisons of growth in different countries for both mobile and Internet subscribers and chart of operators in different countries.

As with all reports in the African Telecoms and Internet Markets series, it opens with two introductory pieces: these look at recent trends in the market across Africa. The first of these contributions - Chinese-supplied CDMA 2000 becomes hybrid convergence challenger for African operators – looks at CDMA 2000 is becoming both a fixed line substitute and a disruptive technology. The second contribution - Mobile operator and ISP loyalty programmes – An idea whose time has come – examines loyalty programmes and argues that as market become more saturated, operators may need to use these programmes to retain high-value customers.

To see the full contents page, including a list of tables, charts, maps and graphics, click on the link below: