Africa world's fastest growing mobile phone market

October 23, 2009,

( -- Mobile phone subscriptions in Africa have defied the world economic crisis by growing faster than in any other region of the world since 2003, according to a United Nations report published yesterday.

The report on global trends in the ICT industry, finds the growth reflected across other poorer nations, especially India. During the first seven months of 2009, that country registered almost 100 million new wireless subscriptions.

However, urgent action is needed to improve Africa’s slow - and costly - internet access, says the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) document, to be presented today at a joint seminar with the University of Manchester.

Monthly access in Burkina Faso, the Central African Republic and Swaziland to broadband, it says, is the most expensive in the world, costing more than $1,300.

There was, it adds, a 550% surge in mobile subscriptions in Africa from 54 million to almost 350 million between 2003 and 2008.

The University's Centre for Development Informatics is hosting a visit by Torbjorn Fredriksson Head, of the ICT Analysis Section at UNCTAD, who launched the report yesterday.

Mr Fredriksson said: "Even though broadband usage is disappointing, there is a good story to tell in Africa about the astonishing growth of mobile telephony - despite the .

"We expect this progress to remain robust as the income barrier to mobile ownership continues to drop, thanks to , more efficient network equipment and more affordable handsets.

"This is because operators have made significant investments in infrastructure across the continent.

"And there appears to be continued interest among investors in expanding and upgrading these networks in Africa."

Professor Richard Heeks, from The University of Manchester and Co-Director of the Centre for Development Informatics, added: "This report reflects our own research - and shows how mobile phones are invaluable to African businesses and individuals.

"In fact, for many small - and medium-sized enterprises in Africa, the mobile phone has overtaken the computer as the most important information and communication technology (ICT) tool.

"African countries, for example, are pioneering mobile banking and electronic cash transaction services.

"And the industry itself is a major employer - over 100,000 people work in the mobile sector and related industries.

"But we must not forget that without a mobile in Africa, you are cut off socially and economically, and tens of millions of people are still in exactly that position .

The poor levels of internet use and broadband connectivity reflect Africa's poor telecommunications infrastructure, says the report.

Only five countries - Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, South Africa, and Tunisia - account for 90% of all broadband subscriptions.

Mr Fredriksson added: "Critical for connecting Africa with the global economy are international fibre-optic cables.

"Sub-Saharan Africa has been largely excluded from the mesh of such cables though a number of initiatives are finally coming to fruition

"This report stresses that despite the positive trends in mobile telecommunications in Africa, there is no room for complacency.

"A long unfinished agenda must be addressed to create a truly inclusive information society for all."


• Measures targeting the rolling out of broadband to areas with low connectivity to help alleviate infrastructure bottlenecks.
• Exploration of new and innovative ways to finance new and more powerful fixed and mobile broadband networks.
• More contributions from national governments, the donor community, and the private sector.

Figures from the report:

• In 2008, Gabon, Seychelles, and South Africa boasted almost 100 mobile subscriptions per 100 inhabitants.
• In Uganda, mobile communications have transformed the country socially and economically and has risen from 0.2 per 100 inhabitants in • 1995 to 23 in 2008. Operators have made significant investments in infrastructure, particularly in rural areas.
• Only five African countries - Burundi, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia - still have a mobile penetration of less than ten per 100 inhabitants.

Provided by University of Manchester (news : web)

Explore further: Europe, South Korea, dominate global IT development (Update)

Related Stories

Mobile industry key to Africa's future

February 4, 2006

Africa will see a significant rise in mobile subscribers between 2006 and 2011, adding as many as 265 million new subscribers, according to a recent study that indicates telecommunications will narrow the gap in the digital ...

Ericsson strong on broadband, mobiles

May 10, 2006

Strong demand for broadband worldwide and for mobile phones in developing countries is keeping the telecom industry strong, the head of Ericsson said.

Mobile phone 'Have-nots' sidelined

April 6, 2009

( -- The explosive growth of mobile phones in the developing world has sidelined tens of millions of people, according to new research.

Recommended for you

AI and 5G in focus at top mobile fair

February 24, 2018

Phone makers will seek to entice new buyers with better cameras and bigger screens at the world's biggest mobile fair starting Monday in Spain after a year of flat smartphone sales.

Google Assistant adds more languages in global push

February 23, 2018

Google said Friday its digital assistant software would be available in more than 30 languages by the end of the years as it steps up its artificial intelligence efforts against Amazon and others.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Oct 23, 2009
This is a little off topic, sorry, but wouldn't helping other countries economy, help technologies and products in all fields? I mean if Africa were a first world country we'd have a new nation to trade many more products with. If a third world country had as many computers and phones as we did per 1000 people, they could accomplish and tribute so much more, and be able to buy all our technology.

I mean obviously they know this and countries have been working on this for a while, but it seems like helping out third world countries is on the drawing board and in the background.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.