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Africa’s Mobile Phone and Population Growth in the 21st Century 

By Eric M.K Osiakwan 

On the 1st of October 2020, the Global System Mobile Association (GSMA) released their “Mobile Economy Sub-Saharan Africa” report which forecasted the mobile economy in Africa into 2025. A positive outlook to start the month of October and the last quarter of 2020. 

The highlight of this forecast is that by 2025, even with though there would be 1.05 billion sim connections and 614  million of which 50% would be unique mobile subscribers and smartphone adoption reaching 65% of the total population, only 39% of Africans would be experiencing their mobile web on those smartphones.  which are expected to grow to 65% of the population(T COMMENT:  The sentence before has 3 different percentages and a figure and reading the original sentence it was hard to digest all that and make it make sense so I made it little easier to read so the conclusion is little clearer). This seems to suggest that even though there would be exponential smartphone growth over the period the cost of connectivity may be a showstopper. That’s not necessarily the case because there’s more happening than meets the eye. 

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The Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) are going to spend collectively about $52 billionB on infrastructure between now and 2025 and this would grow their revenues to $48 billionB by 2025 – generating about a million formal and three million informal jobs across the continent. 

By 2024, the mobile industry would contribute $184 billionB to the continent’s collective GDP bringing it to the 9 to 10% of total GDPrange.  In the first quarter of 2020, the Information Communication Technology (ICT) sector contributed 17.83% to the Nigerian economy – suggesting that the GDP contribution may be higher by the larger ICT sector. 

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According to the report, COVID-19 has increased the demand for digital services and so there is an urgent need for government to create policies that enhance access to connectivity and
drive investment in more resilient digital infrastructure for the future. This is crucial
to reactivating the region’s economy post Covid-19 as digital technologies play an even more important role in society. 

The UN projects that Africa’s population of 1.3 billionB would quadruple over the next two decades reachinggetting to 4.3 billionB by the end of the century. Whiles Asia’s share of global working-age population would be declining, Africa’s would be ascending so Africa would eventually overtakinge Asia by 2100. (T COMMENT: TAKING THIS FROM THE GRAPH BELOW WHERE THE FIGURES CROSS RIGHT AS THE CENTURY COMES TO CLOSE IT SEEMS) 

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Of Africa’s exponentially growing population of the century would be 70% would be below 25 years old. Exactly the demographic that most embraces advanced mobile technologies and is using  so the demographic dividend would not only be in her favor, but the youth have taken to mobile and the mobile web platform to build solutions to the many problems they are faced with. Since the beginning of the 21st century, some of Africa’s youth have being building companies like Interswitch, Cellulant, MSF Africa, Hubtel, IrokoTV, Paga, Jumo, Farmerline, etc. 

The most avid consumers of tThese mobile web solutions are are being consumed by the emerging middle class which according to the African Development Bank Group (“AfDB”) in 2011 was 313 millionM people accounting for – 34% of the total population. This middle class spends (on average?) on average $2.20 a day (T COMMENT: I do not see this figure below- I just see the spending between 2-20bucks per day) . The bank’s definition of middle class in Africa is people who spend the equivalent of $2 to $20 a day based on an assessment of the cost of living for Africa’s more than one billion people.

By 2060, the AfDBthe bank predicts that the number of middle-class Africans will grow to 1.1 billionB and account for  (42% of the predicted population). This means Africans living below the poverty line will be in the minority at 33%.

Now, to address what’s really going on with mobile growth and the seeming cost prohibitiveness of taking advantage of the growth. Given that the middle-class would grow and increase their purchasing power, they would have more disposable income to afford the cost of connectivity and more people would be able to do that. Secondly, as indicated by the GSMA in their report the cost of connectivity would reduce over the period and hence more people would experience their mobile web on smartphones. 

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