19 November 2012

Africa: Region Tops Mobile Usage

The Global System for Mobile Communications Association (GSMA) has revealed that sub-Saharan Africa is the fastest-growing mobile market in the world, with a prodigious average annual growth rate of 44% since 2000.

Mobile connections have leapt to 475 million, compared to just 12.3 million fixed line connections, representing the highest proportion of mobile versus fixed line connections in the world.

With necessary spectrum allocations and transparent regulation, the mobile industry could fuel the growth of 14.9 million new jobs in sub-Saharan Africa between 2015 and 2020. Based on research from Deloitte, the GSMA sub-Saharan Africa Mobile Observatory2 provides a comprehensive evaluation of the region's mobile industry and its socio-economic impact.

"Mobile has already revolutionised African society and yet demand still continues to grow by almost 50 % a year," said Tom Phillips, Chief Government and Regulatory Affairs Officer, GSMA.

Economic Impact of Mobile

The rapid pace of mobile adoption has delivered huge economic benefits for the region, directly contributing US$ 32 billion to the sub-Saharan African economy, or 4.4 per cent of GDP.

Approximately 3.5 million full-time jobs are attributed to the mobile industry, which has also spurred a wave of technology and content innovation. More than 50 'innovation hubs', which develop local skills and content in the field of ICT services, have been created, including the Hive Colab in Uganda, the iHub in Kenya, and Limbe Labs in Cameroon.

Safaricom's M-PESA mobile money transfer service in Kenya has achieved greater scale than any other service in the world.

Today, there are more than 80 mobile money operations for the unbanked across Africa compared to 36 in Asia, the second most popular region for these services.

Spectrum 'Crunch' Threatens Region

Despite investments of US$ 16.5 billion over the past five years (US$ 2.8 billion in 2011 alone) across the five key markets in the region4, mainly directed towards the expansion of network capacity, sub-Saharan Africa faces a looming 'capacity and coverage crunch' in terms of available mobile spectrum.

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