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Disparities in mobile phone ownership pose challenges in Africa

Staff writer |
Mobile phone ownership varies greatly across sub-Saharan Africa, from 87% in Nigeria and 85% in Botswana to relatively scarce ownership in Madagascar (21%).

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These disparities underscore the digital divide that still exists in Africa - despite the recent explosion of technology - and show where this divide is likely a substantial barrier to future development.

With mobile subscriptions reportedly closing in on the 1 billion mark, it is safe to say that cellphones have become commonplace in many Africans' lives. The median for ownership across the 28 countries surveyed is 61%.

In most of the countries Gallup polled, majorities of residents said they own a mobile phone, and at least three in four residents in Nigeria, Botswana, Ivory Coast, Gabon, Ghana and South Africa report having one.

However, less than half of residents of eight countries say they have such a device. Slightly less than half of residents in Rwanda and Sierra Leone own a mobile phone, while about four in 10 residents of Malawi, Niger, Chad and Congo-Kinshasa do.

Mobile ownership is least prevalent in Ethiopia, where about a third say they have a mobile phone, and in Madagascar, where the rate of ownership is about one in five. In both countries, most residents live in remote areas.

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