Although the mobile industry in Sub-Saharan Africa region is posed to slow down in the next coming years, the sector plays an important role in addressing socio-economic challenges and financial inclusion.
GSMA, a company which represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide and uniting nearly 800 operators with more than 250 companies in the broader mobile ecosystem, said in the Mobile Economy-Sub Saharan Africa 2015 report that technology has also enabled access to education and healthcare.
The frontier economies in the Sub Saharan Africa region include Botswana, Democratic Republic of the Congo, C├┤te d’Ivoire, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mauritius, Namibia, Nigeria, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
“Despite revenue and margin pressures, local mobile operators continue to invest heavily to extend network coverage to serve unconnected communities and accelerate the migration to high-speed 3G/4G mobile broadband networks,” said Alex Sinclair, Acting Director General and Chief Technology Officer at the GSMA.
“Mobile technology is also playing a central role in Sub-Saharan Africa by addressing a range of socio-economic challenges, particularly digital and financial inclusion, and enabling access to vital services such as education and healthcare.”
In Botswana, where mobile penetration is high, technology has been a game changer in the banking sector with banks that adopted new technology always being at the forefront of peers in customer attraction. Penetration is said to be at around 160 percent and a number of banks and mobile operators have taken advantage to reach out to previously unbanked segments of the society.
GSMA said total mobile connections in Sub-Saharan Africa are on track to reach 722 million by year-end. Mobile broadband (3G/4G) will account for almost a quarter of connections this year, but will increase to 57 per cent by 2020, driven by expanding mobile broadband network coverage and falling device costs.
Commercial 3G networks have been launched in 41 countries across Sub-Saharan Africa as of June 2015, while 4G networks have been launched in 23 countries.
Investment in these high-speed networks is resulting in a corresponding growth in consumers using their devices to access the internet; almost a quarter (23 per cent) of the Sub-Saharan African population will be using the mobile internet this year, a figure forecast to rise to 37 per cent by 2020. Mobile is seen as the primary means of accessing the internet in a region where fixed-line infrastructure is severely limited.
In a bid to generate new revenue streams and secure market share, the three mobile network operators (MNOs) ÔÇô Mascom Wireless (an affiliate of South Africa’s MTN), Orange Botswana (backed by France Telecom/Orange) and BeMobile (a subsidiary of the fixed-line incumbent BTC) ÔÇô have entered the underdeveloped broadband sector with different strategies including 3G mobile, LTE, WiMAX, and bundling with fixed-line (ADSL) services.
The mobile industry in Sub-Saharan Africa continues to scale rapidly, reaching 367 million subscribers in mid-2015. Migration to higher speed networks and smartphones continues apace, with mobile broadband connections set to increase from just over 20% of the connection base today to almost 60% by 2020. Falling device prices are encouraging the rapid adoption of smartphones, with the region set to add more than 400 million new smartphone connections by 2020, by which time the smartphone installed base will total over half a billion.