Mobile technology has transformed Africa over the past two decades, enabling the continent to leapfrog fixed-lines and join a global digital economy. It has made the internet accessible to nearly everyone, transforming how we live, learn, work, communicate and play. It has become one of the most important economic sectors, catalysing significant job creation and development. For Africa Day 25 May, TCL shares how some facts and numbers about how mobile technology is transforming sub-Saharan Africa.
- Mobile penetration is close to 50%
Vast distances and underdeveloped infrastructure meant a telephone line was a luxury reserved for the rich in Africa until the arrival of the mobile phone. According to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), there was only one fixed broadband line per 100 people in Africa by 2020. By contrast, there were more than 515 million unique mobile subscribers in sub Saharan Africa as of 2021. The GSM Association (GSMA) expects that number to rise to 613 million by 2025, covering 50% of the population. Around one billion SIMs are connected to African mobile networks, excluding licensed Internet of Things connections.
- Mobile telecoms has grown into one of Africa’s biggest industries supporting 3.2 million jobs
According to the GSMA, mobile telecoms has grown into a $140 billion industry in sub-Saharan Africa, representing 8% of GDP. By 2025, mobile’s contribution will grow by approximately $16 billion to almost $155 billion. The sector directly employs around 400,000 people. It also supports 2.8 million more jobs in the formal and informal economies.
- Nigeria is the country with the most mobile subscribers
Unsurprisingly, Africa’s most populous country has the highest number of subscribers. Nigeria had around 200 million mobile connections as of March 2022. South Africa, meanwhile, has more cellular connections than people. There were 109 million cellular mobile connections in South Africa at the start of 2022, equivalent to 180% of the population.
- There are more than 600 million mobile money accounts in sub-Saharan Africa
Banks have historically struggled to make financial services accessible and affordable to people in rural and poor areas of Africa. Most people depended on cash to transact, often needing to travel vast distances at great cost to draw money or make a payment. Since the launch of the first mobile money offerings, that picture has changed dramatically.
It has become easier for people to remit funds, get paid and transact straight from their phones. According to Euromonitor, there were over 600 million mobile money registered accounts and transactions valued at over $600 billion across sub-Saharan Africa in 2022. Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for just over half of active money accounts worldwide.
- Africans bought 73 million smartphones last year
According to IDC, around 73.4 million smartphones shipped into Africa last year. Devices costing less than $200 accounted for 82% of the total smartphone shipment. 5G devices’ share of the overall market is growing as major brands launch more flagship 5G smartphones, says IDC. It’s early days for 5G, but it promises to transform the internet experience across Africa as 5G services become more widely available.