…leads Africa in device usage
Nigeria currently has the highest smartphone penetration in Africa, even as it is projected to have 169 million users by 2025. According to the latest GSMA Mobile Economy report on sub-Sahara Africa, the country’s largely youth population continues to drive the growth in smartphone usage. Next to Nigeria in sub- Saharan Africa smartphone usage is South Africa, which is projected to have 89 million smartphone connections by 2025, followed by Kenya with 52 million. Led by Nigeria, GSMA said smartphone adoption in sub- Saharan Africa more than doubled between 2015 and 2020.
The body of GSM operators, however, noted that smartphones still only account for around half of total connections. “Smartphone affordability, particularly of 4G devices that enable a better user experience, is a major factor behind the relatively low smartphone adoption rate and, by extension, the mobile internet usage gap in sub-Saharan Africa,” it said. Going by current growth, GSMA projected that 64 per cent of all connections on the continent will be through smartphone by 2025. While noting that the COVID- 19 pandemic had also affected the use of smartphones in the region, GSMA said: “COVID-19 has had a mixed impact on smartphone adoption in sub-Saharan Africa. While it has increased demand for connectivity and devices, it has also resulted in supply chain disruptions due to lockdown measures. COVID-19 could also exacerbate the affordability challenge, given that extreme poverty in the region rose by eight per cent in 2020 and could rise by an-other two per cent in 2021.”
Giving further insight into the industry, GSMA disclosed that by the end of 2020, 495 million people subscribed to mobile services in sub-Saharan Africa, representing 46 per cent of the region’s population – an increase of almost 20 million on 2019. It added that with over 40 per cent of the region’s population under the age of 15, young consumers owning a mobile phone for the first time would remain the primary source of growth for the foreseeable future. “Over the period to 2025, 4G adoption in sub-Saharan Af-rica will double to 28 per cent, compared to a global average of 57 per cent. It is still early stages in the journey to 5G in sub-Saharan Africa; as of June 2021, there were seven commercial 5G networks in five markets across the region. By the end of 2025, 5G will account for three per cent of total mobile connections in the region,” the body stated. On efforts of the mobile operators towards the fight aginst COVID-19, GSMA stated that the mobile industry in sub-Saharan Africa had been playing a crucial role in the response to the pandemic. “Mobile operators have implemented measures to support vulnerable communities including offering discounts on mobile tariffs and providing digital content and tools to help people and businesses get online.
“As vaccination programmes begin in many countries, mobile operators have also committed funds and other forms of support to ensure the availability and efficient distribution of vaccines across Sub-Saharan Africa,” it said. According to the body, as economies recover and restrictions ease, mobile technology will be even more integral to how people live and how businesses operate. “It will enable new digital solutions for small and large enterprises and support the growing use of online channels by consumers. Strong investor confidence and consumer interest in digital platforms point to a digital-centric future for sub-Saharan Africa, with mobile at the centre of the creation and consumption of innovative solutions,” it added.