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Mobile Internet Use on the Rise in Africa

The newly released Ericsson Mobility Report has predicted that mobile internet use is set to increase 20 fold in the next five years – which is also predicted to be double the estimated growth rate of the rest of the world.

According to the head of marketing and strategy at Ericsson, Shiletsi Makhofane, the researchers have found that, “Sub-Saharan Africa is currently undergoing a mobile digital revolution with consumers, networks and even media companies embracing the possibilities of 3G and 4G technology.”

The Findings of the Ericsson Mobility Report in relation to Africa

The report found the following to be true for sub-Saharan Africa’s mobile internet usage growth:

  • Mobile data usage grew substantially from 37,500 terabytes (TB) per month in 2013, to 76,000 (TB) in 2014.
  • The report expects this figure to double in 2015 again, with an estimated 147,000 TB usage per month.
  • By 2017, 3G technology will surpass 2G as the region’s dominant form of mobile connection.
  • By the end of 2019, there will be over 930 million mobile subscribers in sub-Saharan Africa, along with 557 million smartphones in use and 710 million active broadband subscriptions.

Makhofane attributes this spike in mobile internet usage statistics to the rise in social media usage, as well as content-rich applications and video content which is now easily accessible via most smartphones on the market.

“Mobile to overtake fixed Internet access by 2014”

This was the bold claim by Mary Meeker, an analyst at Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers (KPCB) in 2008 in relation to the move globally towards mobile technology.

Although this probably isn’t the exact reality yet globally, with the latest KPCB report evaluating trends from 2013 showing the current mobile internet usage globally at 15 percent. This figure is steadily increasing yearly, though the rest of the world is still not seeing the growth figures that Africa is experiencing.

Africa is the “mobile continent”

Africa’s development lagged behind that of other countries in previous decades due to a lack of infrastructure to support computer technology, as well as the effective implementation of landlines for telecommunication and internet connectivity.

It was mobile technology that changed the course of Africa’s development, and today there are over 35 hubs in Africa from which ambitious entrepreneurs can launch start-ups.

Teresa Clarke, the chief executive officer of Africa.com, explained in an interview with Black Enterprise magazine that for many Africans “the cell phone is their landline, ATM and email in one device. Cell phones are central to life.

Africa’s Mobile Future

Ericsson’s report predicts that by the end of 2014, there will be over 635 million mobile subscriptions in sub-Saharan Africa. A figure off which Africa will be able to develop exponentially both economically and socially.

The rise of cheap smartphones will allow vast portions of the population – from middle classes in cities to small businesses in rural areas – access to mobile broadband,” stated Fredrik Jejdling, sub-Saharan Africa head of Swedish tech company Ericsson. “Mobile commerce can offer endless opportunities for entrepreneurs and we’ve found that farmers are fans of mobile wallets – as well as teenagers wanting to watch music videos on their smartphone.”

Mobile technology has managed to overcome the physical ineptitudes of many African countries, all experiencing a lack of infrastructure to support the traditional forms of connectivity and electricity that other countries have been enjoying. It’s no surprise that mobile technology is the way forward for Africa, allowing the continent to flourish.

For further reading, go to these sites:

  1. Ben Gasore, “Mobile internet use to quadruple annually, says new report”, The New Times, 10 June 2014. Available at: http://www.newtimes.co.rw/news/index.php?i=15749&a=77460
  2. Jocelyne Sambira, “Africa’s mobile youth drive change”, Africa Renewal, May 2013. Available at: http://www.un.org/africarenewal/magazine/may-2013/africa%E2%80%99s-mobile-youth-drive-change
  3. Susanne Colwyn, “Global Internet Trends – the latest report from Mary Meeker”, Smart Insights, 3 June 2013. Available at: http://www.smartinsights.com/digital-marketing-strategy/ccmary-meeker-2013-internet-trends-in-the-usa/
  4. David Smith, “Internet use on mobile phones in Africa predicted to increase 20-fold”, The Guardian, 5 June 2014. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jun/05/internet-use-mobile-phones-africa-predicted-increase-20-fold
  5. Erik Hersman, “The Mobile Continent”, Stanford Social Innovation Review, 2013. Available at: http://www.ssireview.org/articles/entry/the_mobile_continent

 

David Okwara

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