A newly published report has revealed that Africa continues to be the fastest-growing region when it comes to mobile phone subscribers with 477 million people having access to mobile phones at the end of 2019. The report by GSMA titled "The Mobile Economy Sub-Saharan Africa 202 Report" also states that 272 million people in Africa are now mobile internet users, this is approximately 26% of the continent's entire population.

Apart from the statistics on mobile subscribers in Africa, the report also includes some policy recommendations from GSMA that they hope will help ensure that the mobile internet makes the best possible contribution to the continent's economy.

“The findings from our Mobile Economy Sub-Saharan Africa report clearly show the importance and value of digital connectivity. Realizing the full potential of a progressive digital future requires an informed policy debate of the sort that GSMA Thrive Africa will deliver. I look forward to welcoming everyone in person to the inaugural MWC21 Africa, an event which represents the continent’s next step towards closing the digital divide," said Akinwale Goodluck, Head of Africa, GSMA.

Source: The Mobile Economy Sub-Saharan Africa 202 Report

Importance of good quality internet connectivity

Thanks to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, there is now no doubt that digital connectivity is a key element of driving economic development across Africa. Unfortunately, given the various lockdowns implemented by African countries, this means that the majority of Africans couldn't connect to the internet during this period as the continent has about 800 million people who are yet to be connected to the internet.

Even for those 272 million people in Africa that have access to mobile internet at the end of 2019, the other issue they have to contend with is the quality of such connectivity. This, poor quality internet connectivity, further widens the digital divide.

GSMA's report also concurs that the quality of internet connectivity across the continent is something that needs to be addressed.

"Thanks to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, there is now no doubt that digital connectivity is a key element of driving economic development across Africa. Unfortunately, given the various lockdowns implemented by African countries, this means that the majority of Africans couldn't connect to the internet during this period as the continent has about 800 million people who are yet to be connected to the internet."

Source: The Mobile Economy Sub-Saharan Africa 202 Report

Africa’s growing mobile economy

GSMA says that it expects an additional 137 million mobile subscribers over the period to 2025, further signifying that there is more upside to Africa's mobile economy. However, apart from addressing the quality of internet connectivity, the other factor that will need to be addressed is the cost of smartphones as they are the most popular method that most people in Africa access the internet.

To this effect, we have seen the rise in cheaper Android smartphones across the continent as well as some interesting smartphone financing models. One such example is the partnership between Safaricom and Google in Kenya where customers are allowed to pay for their 4G smartphones in daily installments.

As the GSMA report also highlights, mobile technologies and services are also a key contributor to the continent's economic development. In 2019, they are reported to have generated $155 billion towards the GDP in Sub-Saharan Africa.

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