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Sub-Saharan Africa leads in mobile subscription

Sub-Saharan Africa remains the fastest-growing region in terms of mobile subscription, with 477 million mobile subscribers at the end of 2019, with an additional 137 million subscribers over the period to 2025, representing a CAGR of 4.3%.

This is according to the GSMA’s annual Mobile Economy Sub-Saharan Africa report that explores the latest data, forecasts and trends for the region.

It coincided with the organisation’s Thrive Africa 2020 hosted virtually in September.

According to the report, 272 million of the 477 million are now mobile internet users, representing 26% of the population. In 2019, mobile technologies and services generated 9% of GDP in Sub-Saharan Africa, a contribution of more than US$155-billion.

“The findings from our Mobile Economy Sub-Saharan Africa report clearly show the importance and value of digital connectivity,” said Akinwale Goodluck, Head of Africa, GSMA. “Realising the full potential of a progressive digital future requires an informed policy debate of the sort that GSMA Thrive Africa will deliver.”

Business leaders representing technology firms Orange, MTN, ZTE and others have agreed that the digital divide remains a challenge in Africa and that addressing the need for inclusivity and affordability will require sustainable infrastructure, collaboration and ongoing investment.

Chairman and CEO of the Orange Group Stéphane Richard raised the issue of the usage divide or residents who are covered by mobile networks but who do not access the internet.

He said 520 million people in Africa fall into this category, mainly because of the high cost of smart devices and mobile services, and that content made available through these devices is not always relevant and/or users do not have the skill sets to take advantage of the technology.

“On a global level 7% of world’s population lacks mobile broadband coverage, less than six hundred million people, whereas in SSA, the gap is currently almost 30% of the population. The lack of internet excludes individuals from opportunities to overcome the social and economic impact of the current crisis. It also limits the ability of governments to effectively manage the pandemic and its economic fallout. If we don’t take action now, we run the risk of reinforcing existing inequalities in the digital world and further marginalising vulnerable people.”

Ralph Mupita, recently appointed Group President and CEO of MTN, said the company is excited about the acceleration of a digital society across its footprint, and the importance of a sustained level of investment to ensure that the connectivity is there and the different types of technologies for this connectivity are there.

“In many of our markets our customers or subscribers are still using 2G phones … our emphasis and investment is really around investing in data-capable technologies, the 3G and 4G, and obviously increasingly into 5G. We believe that investment will yield benefit.”

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