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Sub-Saharan Africa to surpass half a billion mobile subscribers

Staff Writer |
More than half a billion people across Sub-Saharan Africa will be subscribed to a mobile service by the end of a decade, according to a new GSMA study.

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The new report, The Mobile Economy: Sub-Saharan Africa 2017, was published at the GSMA Mobile 360 Africa event.

It forecasts that the number of unique mobile subscribers1 in Sub-Saharan Africa will grow from 420 million (43 per cent of the population) at the end of 2016 to 535 million (50 per cent of the population) in 2020, making it the fastest growing region in the world over this period.

The report also highlights the Sub-Saharan Africa mobile ecosystem’s growing contribution to regional GDP, jobs, innovation and socio-economic development.

Subscriber growth is expected to be concentrated in large, 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.

Growth will also focus on currently under-represented segments such as the under-16 age group, which accounts for more than 40 per cent of the population in many countries, and women, who are currently 17 per cent less likely to have a mobile phone subscription than their male counterparts.

Mobile is also a vital tool in delivering digital and financial inclusion in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Around 270 million people in the region now access the internet through mobile devices, while the number of registered mobile money accounts has reached 280 million.

Mobile operators and others are also leveraging the ubiquity of mobile networks across the region to deliver services that are working towards achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)2 in areas such as energy, water and sanitation, healthcare, and education.

Mobile technologies and services generated $110 billion of economic value in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2016, equivalent to 7.7 per cent of regional GDP3 – a figure expected to grow to $142 billion (8.6 per cent of GDP) by 2020.

The mobile ecosystem also directly and indirectly supported approximately 3.5 million jobs in the region last year, and made a $13 billion contribution to the public sector in the form of taxation.

Local mobile operators have invested $37 billion in their networks over the past five years, mainly to deploy new 3G/4G mobile broadband networks.

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.

These new networks – alongside rising smartphone adoption – are driving demand for digital content and services.


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