Mobile Opportunities in Africa - Engaging with the Next Billion

By Editor
  Published 27 Feb 2013
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Mobile Opportunities in Africa - Engaging with the Next Billion

Guestpost by Rudy De Waele, CEO & Founder of Nyota Media.

Part 1

I started investigating mobile in Africa, in early 2010, which resulted in the Mobile Trends 2020 Africa document I curated together with Ken Banks and Erik Hersman, and presented at The Next Web Conference in 2011.

Embedded below is a new slide deck from a presentation I gave at ForumOxford: Mobile Apps and Technologies Conference, in November 2012.

This slideshow is a result of Nyota Media'slatest research and in-depth analysis of the African mobile market focusing on the most progressing Sub-Saharan countries. Included are lots of statistics on mobile and 3G penetration, the elements coming together to create a healthy ecosystem and examples of innovative local entrepreneurs who are creating new greenfield opportunities with mobile across the continent.

As my co-founding partner and director of communications at Nyota Media, Shaheera Asante points out.

"We understand the complex process of sector penetration that international companies face in trying to effectively engage with the fast-paced growth in technology across sub-Saharan Africa, and on the other side of the coin, we are now servicing new African based enterprises wishing to utilise mobile technology to improve multiple sector growth within Africa.

As a an African woman having lived and worked on both sides of this scenario, I am passionate in my stance to make sure there is a better understanding that whatever works, from job-creation, skills enhancement, to effective communication - the social and economic benefits must be in Africa's next generations' benefit with economic success trickling around the continent and not only out of it".

Fast-growing economies

Last year, not a day passed without daily headlines about Mobile Technology in Africa.

I think it's great that there is now global awareness that the continent as a whole, gets more attention for its fast-moving innovations using technology - so here is a more in-depth overview per country.Obviously, some countries are leading in mobile and paving the way, creating role models for other countries that are less developed in mobile and technology as of now.

As 7 out of 10 African countries are currently in the fastest growing economies on the planet, with an average GDP (gross domestic product) growth rate of about 7 per cent or more including Ethiopia, Mozambique, Tanzania, DR Congo, Ghana, Zambia and Nigeria. You can view each country's mobile penetration in the document.

This list of 7 countries does not include other mobile connected countries such as; Kenya, Uganda and South Africa. Countries like Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Gabon, Mauritania and Mauritius have a mobile penetration of over or nearly 100% penetration but curiously are rarely in the international news.

A fast-growing economy doesn't mean a fast-growing mobile economy

Penetration rates vary in each of these countries, depending on their political and economic stability. However, these 7 countries alone have a combined population of 424M people, (the United States has a population of 315M) - in the coming years, this region will become one of the most connected areas in the world with more users than the US, China, Europe and India put together.

Mobile and 3G penetration

Africa has become the second most connected region in the world in terms of mobile subscriptions in 2011.

Mobile penetration has increased rapidly in the last 12 years in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), from just 1% in 2000 to 54% in 2012. According GSMA, today there are more than 454 million connections in SSA to grow steadily over the next few years, reaching 75% of the population and 700 million connections in 2016.

3G networks are now available in over 30 countries in SSA compared to only 10 in 2008. Telecoms are investing heavily in covering uncovered areas. Note that unreliable electricity supplies across Africa, diesel generators, primarily power the network base stations.

Despite these geographic and logistic constraints, currently nearly 76% of the SSA population is covered by mobile services.  Investments are continuously made by the Telco’s in solar and wind-powered cell towers instead of diesel-driven engines to reduce carbon emissions.

Africa may become one of the most advanced in these types of greentech solutions.

Feature phones vs. Smartphones

The number of smartphones sold is forecasted to grow on average 40% per year up to 2017. In South Africa smartphones are expected to exceed 50% of the subscriber base in 2017, followed by Nigeria and Kenya with 29% and 28% penetration.

Huawei launched its sub-$100 Ideos X1 Android smartphone in Kenya in 2010. The device became the best-selling smartphone in Kenya in 2011. Over 350,000 Ideos phones were sold that year, that’s 45% of the Kenyan smartphone market! Samsung aims to double its share of the sub-Saharan smartphone market to 20 % by next year with the Galaxy Pocket. The company aims to make up to $10 billion in sales on the African market by 2015. Meanwhile MTN is considering offering a $50 Nokia smartphone on the market in the next few months.

Though Feature Phones still rule in Africa - 2012 was the first year that feature phone worldwide sales started to drop in each quarter of the year. According to Gartner, Google's four-year-old Android powered 122 million new handsets from July to September 2011, an average run rate of 1.3 million every day. Almost half of those Android handsets- 49.6% or 60.5 million - are sold in the Asia/Pacific region but the trend is set globally.

A healthy mobile (app) ecosystem

Voice services are still the main source of income for most operators.

Data revenues (including SMS), are gaining ground in Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya, where they currently account for 26% of total revenues, following a 67% growth over the last four years.

Mobile Money becomes the key application to pay bills, send & receive money or to buy goods in the most mobile connected African countries.

African entrepreneurs take hold of their own future!

A new generation is creating new opportunities with mobile, from users of technology to makers of technology.

  • More and more private equity funds locally and internationally are setting specific funds to invest in mobile technology start-ups based in SSA; an example is Savannah Fund with investment from I/O Ventures from Silicon Valley. Accelerating and mentoring programs like 88mph are already seeing the light in Nairobi and Cape Town.
  • Some 22 Innovation Hubs have been set up recently in various countries to support entrepreneurs and their activities with iHub in Nairobi as probably the most visible with international conference activities and global visibility created through their excellent blog.
  • International interest and attention through start-up conferences as Demo, AppCircus, and MobileMonday is growing every year.

View the full slideshow here.

View Part Two here.(Includes links to some of the most exciting projects using mobile technology in Social Media, Content, mCommerce and education will be published on the Afrinnovator website).

At Nyota Media we shall be publishing further presentations and reports in the coming months. Feel free to contact us by email or on Twitter @nyotamedia if you know about any great African apps that improve the lives of people.Feel free to contact us directly by email or on Twitter @nyotamedia to tell us about your app, greentech or technology start-up using mobile technology.    
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