it comes to mobile phones, Africa is truly undergoing a revolution. A
new study shows that Africa is the first continent to have more mobile
phone users than fixed-line subscribers. Mobile phones have
revolutionised Africa during the last years: more Africans have begun
using phones since the year 2000 than in the whole of the previous
century. The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) presented new
statistics on the telecom sector in Africa at the recent Africa Telecom
conference held in Cairo. According to the ITU survey, Africa has also
become the world’s fastest-growing mobile phone market. Over the past
five years the continent’s mobile phone use has increased at an annual
rate of 65 per cent, which is twice the global average. This is good new
for telecom investors in Africa.
The actual growth in mobile
phones has been far larger than expected by international experts and
investors. A major reason for the boom is that Africa lags far behind
other continents when it comes to fixed-line phone subscribers. Only 2.8
per cent of Africans have ordinary phone services.
generally sparsely populated and extensive African continent, where the
majority population lives in poverty, the large costs of stringing up
telephone wires so far has not been economically viable. Mobile phone
networks, on the other hand, are much cheaper and faster to establish.
As a result, some 6 per cent of Africans now use mobile phones; more
than double the number of fixed-line phone subscribers.
establishment of mobile phone networks has also defied structures
hostile to investments, warfare, failed states and natural disasters.
Somalia, which has not had any central government for over a decade, has
achieved a vibrant mobile industry. Mobiles have steadily advanced in
Congo Kinshasa and Liberia despite heavy warfare. Instable Guinea-Bissau
this year became the African nation to erect a mobile phone network.
masts tower above cities such as Cape Town and Cairo, war–torn capitals
such as Mogadishu and Monrovia, rural villages never touched by
telephone lines and even remote refugee camps such as Kakuma in northern
Kenya, where text messages and irritating ringtones are now as much a
part of life as food handouts. This remarkable growth — the African
market is expanding nearly twice as fast as Asia’s — has confounded
analysts and even service operators. The ITU forecast that there would
be 300 million users by the end of 2020. Before mobile phones, vast
swaths of Africa were communication voids. There are just three
landlines per hundred Africans and most are expensive and unreliable. By
contrast, Europe has 40 fixed phones per 100 people.
handset market in Nigeria is currently undergoing an unprecedented boom.
Shipments of new GSM phones are forecast to rise almost 60 per cent by
2020 making Nigeria the largest market in Africa for GSM phone sales
thereby displacing South Africa from the number one spot. It is
estimated that just 35 per cent of Nigeria’s population has a mobile
phone – a useful insight to gauge the Nigerian market’s enormous
potential as a growing market for GSM handsets.
South Africa, on
the other hand, with its booming economy, is Africa’s biggest mobile
phone market as of now, with nearly 25 million subscribers. South Africa
is followed by Nigeria, Egypt and Morocco.
However, it is in
less-developed countries that the statistics are most startling. The
Democratic Republic of Congo, population 60 million, has 10,000 fixed
telephones but more than a million mobile phone subscribers. In Chad,
the fifth-least developed country, mobile phone usage jumped from 10,000
to 200,000 in three years.
A lack of electricity has not proved
a hindrance: roadside vendors charge mobile phones with car batteries.
As the signal coverage expands, cheaper phones and calls fuel growth.
phones not only offer Africans new facilities through voice services
but also uses emerging technologies that bring Internet access to
phones, thereby bypassing the need for a computer for connecting to the
World Wide Web. Since computers are rare in much of the African
continent due to poor wire-line infrastructure – a recent study found 97
per cent of people in Tanzania said they could access a mobile phone,
while only 28 per cent could access a landline – and unreliable
electrical grids, a technology that offers Internet access without a
costly PC promises to pay dividends for Africans. Sale of mobile
phones in Africa is set to more than double in the next three years. The
expected to be bolstered by expansion of local and
regional economies and more service providers rolling out networks
across the region.
Increased demand for mobile phones is
expected to provide phone manufacturers with a steady supply of
customers as existing owners upgrade their models and new subscribers
come online with increased network expansion.
Looking at the
great demand for mobile phones in Africa and the rising sales figures
throughout the African continent, an enterprising organisation in Zambia
called M-Tech Mobile Communication has started assembling its own brand
of mobile telephone handsets and has been promoting its brand