Mobile subscriptions in Sub-Saharan Africa have grown exponentially over the last decade. According to a new GSMA report titled ‘The Mobile Economy: Sub-Saharan Africa 2017‘ over a half a billion people will subscribe to a mobile service in the next ten years. The report was published at the GSMA Mobile 360 Africa conference.
Based on the new statistics, the number of unique mobile subscribers in the region will increase from 420 million in 2016 to 535 million by 2020. The forecast makes Sub-Saharan Africa the fastest in growth when it comes to uptake of mobile services. The expanding mobile ecosystem has resulted in the creation of jobs, boosted innovation, improved GDP and socioeconomic development.
Local telcos are looking to capitalise on the rapidly expanding sector and have invested about $37 billion in their networks for the last 5 years. To meet the demand of new mobile subscribers, the operators are rolling out 3G/4G networks. By the end of 2016, about 30 percent of mobile connections in the region were operating on mobile broadband and is expected to double to 60 percent by 2020. As a result, alongside driving smartphone adoption, it has created a demand for digital content and services.
The Director General of the GSMA, Mats Granryd says in an IT News Africa article,
“Sub-Saharan Africa will be a key engine of subscriber growth for the world’s mobile industry over the next few years as we connect millions of previously unconnected men, women and young people across the continent.”
Last year alone, mobile operators in Sub-Saharan Africa generated $110 billion in total revenue, which is predicted to grow to $142 billion by 2020. The positive returns posted by the companies have supported 3.5 million regional jobs in 2016 and contributed $13 billion in taxation to the public sector.
Mobile technology has become a key driver of financial inclusion in Sub-Saharan Africa, with 270 million people connected to the internet via their mobile devices. In addition, 280 million people have mobile money wallets. Mobile companies and tech startups are leveraging the expansive mobile networks to offer sustainable solutions to endemic African problems such as access to healthcare, electricity, education and financial services.
Granryd adds: “As Sub-Saharan Africa transitions to higher levels of mobile engagement, underpinned by growing access to mobile data services and smart devices, we are seeing a flourishing mobile ecosystem emerge, supported by growing investments by operators and others in mobile-focused startups and tech hubs. Building this digital society requires collaboration between governments and the mobile industry to develop the policies and programmes that create the right incentives for innovation and an enabling environment for extending connectivity to all.”
Driving Bitcoin Adoption
The growing number of smartphones has undoubtedly been a catalyst for increased bitcoin adoption in the region. Users can download bitcoin wallets on their phones and use them for transactions and storage. Also, most people can only access the Internet through their phones, which are, therefore, convenient to use for bitcoin users in remote areas. Since many Africans are comfortable using mobile money accounts, to send and receive money and settle payments, the challenge is for
Since many Africans are comfortable using mobile money accounts, to send and receive money and settle payments, the challenge is for bitcoin developers and startups to create bitcoin products that are truly smartphone-friendly. For now, we can expect the African bitcoin community to expand as mobile subscriptions continue to soar and bitcoin awareness grows.