Read time: 3 minutes

GSMA predicts fastest mobile subscriptions growth in Sub-Saharan Africa

GSMA predicts fastest mobile subscriptions growth in Sub-Saharan Africa

The GSMA has released a new report into the mobile economy in Sub-Saharan Africa during the Africa edition of GSMA Mobile 360 Africa event, currently underway in Tanzania.

The report forecasts that the number of unique mobile subscribers in Sub-Saharan Africa will grow from 420 million, which is equal to 43% of the region's population at the end of 2016, to 535 million or 50% of the population in 2020 - making it the fastest growing region in the world (in terms of mobile subscriptions) over the five year period.

Mats Granryd, Director General of the GSMA has highlighted the report's finding that the surge in subscriptions in Sub-Saharan Africa's mobile ecosystem will result in a growing contribution to regional GDP, jobs, innovation and socio-economic development.

"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. Mobile is also offering sustainable solutions that address the lack of access to services such as health, education, electricity, clean water and financial services, which still affect large swathes of the population."

Subscriber growth in Sub-Saharan Africa is expected to be concentrated in underpenetrated markets such as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Nigeria and Tanzania, which together will account for half of the 115 million new subscribers expected in Sub-Saharan Africa by 2020 according to the GSMA.

The report also found that growth will focus on what the GSMA says are currently under-represented segments such as the under-16 age group and women.

Growing economic value

The GSMA reports that mobile technologies and services generated US$110 billion of economic value in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2016, equivalent to 7.7% of regional GDP.

The expectation is that this figure will grow to US$142 billion (8.6% of GDP) by 2020. The mobile ecosystem is reported to have directly and indirectly supported approximately 3.5 million jobs in the region last year, and made a US$13 billion contribution to the public sector in the form of taxation.

Local mobile operators have invested US$37 billion in their networks over the past five years, mainly to deploy new 3G/4G mobile broadband networks according to the GSMA. About a third of mobile connections in region were running on mobile broadband networks at the end of last year, forecast to rise to 60 per cent by 2020.

"As Sub-Saharan Africa transitions to higher levels of mobile engagement, underpinned by growing access to mobile data services and smart devices, we are seeing a flourishing mobile ecosystem emerge, supported by growing investments by operators and others in mobile-focused startups and tech hubs. Building this digital society requires collaboration between governments and the mobile industry to develop the policies and programmes that create the right incentives for innovation and an enabling environment for extending connectivity to all."

Granryd's sentiments were echoed by Samia Suluhu Hassan, Vice-President of Tanzania, host of the African leg of GSMA's Mobile 360 event for the second year in a row.

"'It is only through the mobile industry that we can unlock the economic potential of the Sub-Saharan Africa region." remarked the Vice president in her opening address.

The GSMA report was compiled by the organisation's research division or GSMA Intelligence.

Daily newsletter