More than half a billion people in sub-Saharan Africa will be subscribed to a mobile service by the end of the decade, according to a new research report from the GSMA, an industry body, released on Tuesday.
The report forecasts that the number of unique mobile subscribers in Sub-Saharan Africa will grow from 420m (43% of the population) at the end of 2016 to 535m (50%) in 2020, making it the fastest growing region in the world over this period.
“Sub-Saharan Africa will be a key engine of subscriber growth for the world’s mobile industry over the next few years as we connect millions of previously unconnected men, women and young people across the continent,” said GSMA director-general Mats Granryd in a statement.
Subscriber growth is expected to be concentrated in large, underpenetrated markets such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Tanzania, which together will account for half of the 115m new subscribers expected in Sub-Saharan Africa by 2020, the GSMA said.
Growth will also focus on currently under-represented segments such as the under-16 age group, which accounts for more than 40% of the population in many countries, and women, who are currently 17% less likely to have a mobile phone subscription than men.
About 270m people in the region now access the Internet through mobile devices, while the number of registered mobile money accounts has reached 280m.
Mobile technologies and services generated an estimated US$110bn (R1,5 trillion) of economic value in sub-Saharan Africa in 2016, equivalent to 7.7% of regional GDP, the GSMA said. This figure is expected to grow to $142bn (8.6% of GDP) by 2020.
The mobile ecosystem also directly and indirectly supported approximately 3.5m jobs in the region last year, and made a $13bn contribution to government coffers through taxes.
Local mobile operators have invested $37bn in their networks over the past five years, mainly to deploy new 3G and 4G mobile broadband networks, the report found.
About a third of mobile connections in region were running on mobile broadband networks at the end of last year, and this is forecast to rise to 60% by 2020. These new networks — alongside rising smartphone adoption — are driving demand for digital content and services.
The report, called The Mobile Economy: Sub-Saharan Africa 2017, is authored by GSMA Intelligence, the research arm of the GSMA. — (c) 2017 NewsCentral Media