New report identifies the heroes and villains of Africa’s mobile data pricing and why women are being excluded from Africa’s digital life

11 March 2019

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Sub-Saharan Africa desperately needs mobile data pricing that matches the pockets of the mass market that should be using it. The latest annual release from research company Cable looks at worldwide mobile data prices. Russell Southwood looks at what it tells us about current Sub-Saharan African prices.

Every year research company Cable releases an annual comparison of broadband prices. Until this year, these comparisons have been for fixed broadband. This year’s looks at mobile data prices and examined 6,313 plans in late 2018. The resulting Excel spreadsheet provides an average price for a country and most and least expensive.

The data provides a largely baffling listing of Sub-Saharan countries where there is no easily discernible relationship between GDP per capita (a crude measure of wealth) and the average price being charged for a GB of data. For example, Congo-B (US$5.63 per GB), Sierra Leone (U$5.79) and Mali (US$9.22 per GB) all fall in the second most expensive category (US$5+ to below US$10 per GB). South Africa at US$7.19 per GB is the most completely out of whack: how does a country like this continue to price against only the “haves” and not the “have-nots”?

Neither do the average price rankings seem to have a direct and clear relationship to the level of competition in a country except at the top end. Out of the most expensive countries ((US$11.02 to US$75.20 per GB), 7 out of ten have monopoly issues: Nambia, Togo, eSwatini, Benin, Djibouti and Equatorial Guinea.

We are about to publish a very detailed report on Africa’s Top 11 Digital Markets (see paragraph at the end of this story) and in terms of mobile data pricing we reach somewhat different conclusions. However, eight out the 11 countries that have the largest online activity fall in the bottom half of the price spectrum (below US$5 per GB): Ghana (US$1.56), Cameroon (US$1.71), Nigeria (US$2.22), Kenya (US$2.73); Ethiopa (US$2.91), Senegal (US$3.28), Cote d’Ivoire (US$4.10) and Uganda (US$4.69).

The outliers are Tanzania (US$5.93), which we think has cheaper data prices, South Africa (see above – nuff said) and Angola (US$7.95).

In the most recent annual reports for MNOs reporting publicly, they have defined active mobile data subscribers as people using 5MB a month or 100 MB a month. If large numbers of Africans in Sub-Saharan Africa are going to start living the digital life then pricing 1GB seems a better place to start.

So below is a table showing the roll call of shame for those selling the most expensive data in Sub-Saharan Africa:


Top 10 Countries                       Most Expesive
                                                Average GB                        

Zimbabwe                                    US$75.20

Equatorial Guinea                          US$65.83

Djibouti                                        US$37.92

Benin                                           US$20.99

Seychelles                                    US$19.55

Mozambique                                 US$15.82

Botswana                                     US$14.12

Comoros                                      US$12.57

eSwatini                                       US$12.14

Togo                                            US$11.76

Namibia                                       US$11.12


And below is the top 10 countries selling the cheapest average price for a GB who deserve a round of applause:


Top 10 Countries                              Cheapest
                                                      Average GB

Rwanda                                            US$0.56

Sudan                                               US$0.86

DRC                                                   US$0.88

Ghana                                                US$1.56

Cameroon                                          US$1.71

Guinea                                               US$1.94

Burundi                                              US$2.00

Nigeria                                               US$2.22

Zambia                                               US$2.25

Lesotho                                              US$2.43


Now try and imagine a world in which the average price per GB is below US$2 for the majority of countries and the average use per user is at least 1 GB a month. At that point you can start to see Africa’s digital life involving millions of people.

Another big obstacle that has to be overcome before that dream becomes a reality is the gender gap. According to the Mobile Gender Gap Report for 2019 from the GSMA, the gender gap in mobile ownership in Sub-Saharan Africa for 2018 was 15%. The gender gap refers to how much less likely a woman is to own a mobile than a man. The worst thing is that this gender gap has not shifted since 2017.

Why does this matter for a discussion of mobile data use? With the exception of Algeria and South Africa, women were significantly less likely to use mobile data than men:

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The red represents women, the blue men and the gender gap percentage is in the circle on the right of the chart.

This gender gap represents a market going begging and it’s hard to see where the marketing strategies are to get them. In Sub-Saharan Africa, as elsewhere globally, women hold up more than half the world and the digital life opportunities have to be available for everyone.

To download the pricing analysis click here

Click here to down the Mobile Gender Gap Report for 2019


Sub-Saharan Africa’s Digital Landscape and its Top 11 Markets

I sent off to the proofreader today a 146 pp report called Sub-Saharan Africa’s Digital Landscape and its Top 11 Markets – data prices, smartphones, digital content and services and e-commerce. After four year's research. it's my analysis of how big Sub-Saharan Africa's online activity really is; who's actually paying for anything; how they're paying for it; and what they're doing in terms of online behavior (both content and services). It has over a thousand data points in it, many from completely new sources. I think you and your colleagues will find it very interesting and useful. The publication date is set for 2 April and the pre-publication price is GBP1,155.

If you’re interested in seeing Contents Page and a full listing of all tables and graphics just mail me send me an email requesting it. To take advantage of the pre-publication offer, just send me an email requesting an invoice: