Strong mobile subscriber growth and greater access to 3G and 4G data services will increase the mobile industry’s contribution to the West African economy to $51 billion annually in 2022, the GSMA forecast.

The Association’s The Mobile Economy: West Africa 2018 report tipped the industry to increase its contribution to the region’s economy from $37 billion in 2017 – equivalent to 6.5 per cent of GDP – to 7.7 per cent of GDP in 2022.

Its figures for 2017 reveal a mobile penetration rate of 47 per cent across the 15 countries in the Economic Community of West African States, up from 28 per cent in 2010.

Penetration is tipped to rise to 54 per cent in 2025, driven by the region’s large youth population reaching adulthood and taking mobile subscriptions. The report also points to the positive impact of continued investment from local operators in constructing 3G and 4G networks.

By 2025, the GSMA said 94 per cent of the regions’ connections will be on 3G or 4G services, compared to 36 per cent in 2017. The increased access and performance of data networks, it added, will also drive business efficiencies across a number of industries including health and finance.

GSMA chief regulatory officer John Giusti said growth in the region also relied on the support of authorities.

“Connecting a new generation of mobile subscribers across West Africa requires a new era of collaboration between industry and governments in order to implement policies that encourage network expansion, innovation and affordability,” Giusti said.

“In addition to the work of operators to expand and improve networks, significant effort from governments at all levels is needed to create the right conditions for continued investment.”

The Economic Community of West African States comprises: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Cote d’Ivoire, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo.