More than half the population of Sub-Saharan Africa will be subscribed to a mobile service by 2025, according to the latest edition of the GSMA’s Mobile Economy report series, published by the GSMA this week.
The new report forecasts that there will be 634 million unique mobile subscribers across Sub-Saharan Africa by 2025, equivalent to 52 per cent of the population, up from 444 million (44 per cent) at the end of last year. The report also calculates that the mobile ecosystem will add more than $150 billion in value to Sub-Saharan Africa’s economy by 2022, equivalent to almost 8 per cent of regional GDP.
“For many citizens across the region, particularly those living in rural areas, a mobile phone is not just a communications device but also the primary channel for getting online and a vital tool for improving their lives,” commented John Giusti, Chief Regulatory Officer at the GSMA. “More needs to be done to extend connectivity to the remaining unconnected and underserved populations across Sub-Sahara Africa, but this will require a focus on long-term industry sustainability that can only be achieved through investment-friendly policies and supportive regulatory frameworks.”
Meeting the Affordability Challenge of a Youthful Population
Sub-Saharan Africa has been the world’s fastest-growing mobile region in recent years but subscriber growth is slowing as the industry faces the challenges of affordability and a youthful population. The region’s current mobile penetration rate (44 per cent of the population) is significantly below the global average of 66 per cent. Further, according to the World Bank, around 40 per cent of the population in the region are under the age of 16, a demographic segment that has significantly lower levels of mobile ownership than the population as a whole.
However, despite these challenges, smartphone adoption continues to increase rapidly thanks to lower device costs, which is serving to accelerate migration to 3G/4G mobile broadband networks and services. Today’s report predicts that mobile broadband will account for 87 per cent of mobile connections in Sub-Saharan Africa by 2025, up from 38 per cent in 2017. Moreover, nearly 300 million new subscribers are expected to use their devices to access mobile internet services over the next seven years.
A Growing Contributor to Economic Growth, Tech Innovation and the SDGs
Last year, mobile technologies and services accounted for 7.1 per cent of GDP across Sub-Saharan Africa, a contribution that amounted to $110 billion of economic value added. By 2022, the region’s mobile economy is forecast to generate more than $150 billion (7.9 per cent of GDP) of economic value as countries continue to benefit from improvements in productivity and efficiency, particularly due to the increase in mobile internet adoption. The region’s mobile ecosystem also supported 3 million jobs in 2017 and contributed almost $14 billion to the funding of the public sector in the form of general taxation as well as sector-specific levies on the consumption of mobile services.
The report also includes examples of how mobile networks and services are playing a key role in delivering the UN’s Sustainable Developments Goals (SDGs), as well as supporting a fast-growing tech startup ecosystem. Many tech startups in Africa now use mobile as the primary platform to create solutions that address a range of socioeconomic challenges.
“Sub-Saharan Africa’s mobile industry is showing strong progress in achieving the targets of the SDGs, predominantly through increased connectivity and access to information, but also through the delivery of services, such as mobile money, that increase productivity, improve well-being and reduce poverty,” added Giusti.