LIVE FROM GSMA MOBILE 360 SERIES – AFRICA: The mobile industry contributed more than $100 billion to the economy of Sub-Saharan Africa last year, equivalent to 5.7 per cent of the region’s gross domestic product, according to a new study by GSMA.
Mobile operators directly contributed $31 billion, representing 1.7 per cent of GDP.
The industry is forecast to contribute $166 billion in value to the region by 2020, equivalent to 8 per cent of expected GDP.
But the report, titled The Mobile Economy – Sub-Saharan Africa 2015, also noted that there are challenges ahead, with subscriber growth rates set to slow, reflecting the obstacles that remain in bringing connectivity to the region.
Mobile operator revenue growth is also slowing as a result of the pressure on subscriber growth, as well as factors such as increased competition and regulatory action.
“Despite revenue and margin pressures, local mobile operators continue to invest heavily to extend network coverage to serve unconnected communities and accelerate the migration to high-speed 3G/4G mobile broadband networks,” Alex Sinclair, acting director general and CTO of the GSMA, said.
“Mobile technology is also playing a central role in Sub-Saharan Africa by addressing a range of socio-economic challenges, particularly digital and financial inclusion, and enabling access to vital services such as education and healthcare,” he continued.
Fastest growing region
GSMA forecast that there will be 386 million unique mobile subscribers in Sub-Saharan Africa by the end of 2015, equivalent to 41 per cent of the region’s population.
Growth in the first half of the decade (2010 to 2015) has been 13 per cent per year (CAGR), more than twice the global average (6 per cent). It overtook Latin America in 2014 to become the world’s third largest mobile subscriber market, behind Asia Pacific and Europe.
The number of unique mobile subscribers is expected to reach 518 million by 2020, representing almost half of the region’s population by this point.
Total mobile connections (including multi-SIM, but excluding cellular machine-to-machine) are on track to reach 722 million by year-end. Mobile broadband (3G/4G) will account for almost a quarter of connections this year, but will increase to 57 per cent by 2020, driven by expanding mobile broadband network coverage and falling device costs.
Commercial 3G networks have been launched in 41 countries across Sub-Saharan Africa as of June 2015, while 4G networks are available in 23 countries.