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Nigeria And Ethiopia To Account For Nearly 40% Of Mobile Subscribers Soon, Additional 700k Jobs To Be Created In The Sub-Saharan Mobile Market.


The GSMA (Global System for Mobile communication Association) which is a body of mobile operators and allied companies with a focus on promoting best standards within the telecom industry has released a report on “Mobile Economy For Sub-Saharan Africa 2015”. The report was released at Mobile -360 on the 8th of October 2015.

It generally buttresses on reports the numerous reports out there on how strong the African mobile market is and will eventually be by 2020 which is the year Ericsson thinks there will be 50 billion devices connected to the internet. Fredrik Jejdling, Ericsson’s president and regional head for sub-Saharan Africa, told reporters in Nigeria he predicts 90 percent of the world’s population over the age of 6 will have a mobile phone by 2020. The report went on to say that Africa and Asia will account for 80% of the smartphone market soon due to projected population growth by various agencies. For example, Africa is projected to have three of the most populated countries by 2050 namely Nigeria (413 million), Congo (195 million) and Ethiopia (188 million). 

projected population of the world

A quick breakdown of this report from GSMA

First the good news is that the mobile industry contributed $100b/20tr Naira/10.3tr KES to the sub Saharan economy in 2014 which is equal to 5.7% of the GDP. Between 2010 and 2015, the mobile market recorded a growth of 13% but this is expected to slow to 6% between 2015 and 2020.

Fastest Growing “Mobile” Region in the world

It is projected that 41% of the Sub-Saharan Africans will be unique mobile subscriber by the end of the year. The figure represent nearly 390 million people. The region overtook Latin America which was the fastest growing mobile region in 2014 to take the spot of being the fastest growing region. Nigeria and Ethiopia are expected to have a combined population of over 320 million by 2020 and will account for over for 40% of subscribers in the period till 2020 with this expected to continue to grow well into the decade ahead. The number of unique mobile subscribers in sub-Saharan Africa is forecast to surpass half a billion (518 million) by 2020, representing almost one in two (49%) of the region’s population by this point. 

According to the GSMA report, it is expected that the number of Sub-Saharan mobile subscribers will reach 722 million by year end. Migration to higher speed networks and smartphones continues apace, with mobile broadband connections set to increase from just over 20% of the connection base today to almost 60% by the end of the decade. Falling device prices are encouraging the rapid adoption of smartphones, with the region set to add more than 400 million new smartphone connections by 2020, by which time the smartphone installed base will total over half a billion. These falling mobile device cost is what may have led to the informa report that there will be over 337 million smartphone users in Africa by 2017 which is is a figure on track to meet the 400 million prediction in the GSMA report.

Total mobile connections in sub-Saharan Africa 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% by 2020, driven by expanding mobile broadband network coverage and falling device costs. At least 41 countries now have 3G services as of Jun2 2015 while about 23 countries have 4G services.

GSMA Africa MobileThe infograph on the report from GSMA

Direct contribution to the economy

The mobile industry employed 2 million people directly in 2014 and there’s expected to be an additional 700k jobs created in the mobile industry by 2020. This will bring the number to 2.7 million direct employments with an additional 3.4 million indirect jobs in the same year. By 2020, it is expected that the mobile market would be worth $166b/33tr Naira/ 17tr KES and this represents 8% of the region’s GDP as opposed to 5.7% of GDP in 2014. At the end of the 2014, Nigeria alone had about 136 million registered lines from the four major operators (Etisalat, MTN, Glo and Airtel). Nigerian telecom operators accounted for 35% of the total foreign direct investment (FDI) into Nigeria in 2014 alone.

The increase in revenue and economic contribution we have seen from operators is largely due to strong subscriber base which is in turn fuelled by improving economic conditions across the continent especially in urban areas. But there’s just much the urban areas can do to sustain this as more people still live in rural areas on the continent in general.

NCC data

Weakening Demand

In the midst of the good report from the GSMA, there’s weaker demand. This is because over half of the Sub-Saharan residents live in rural areas and don’t have access to some of these services. The operators don’t see much economic benefit in investing heavily in areas where people are not economically empowered enough to pay for these services. There’s another reason though which the report doesn’t specifically mention and that is the penetration of broadband services into many countries. These providers now have a significant proportion of mobile subscribers who otherwise would have relied on mobile operators for data services but now use their mobile phones mainly for voice calls among other valued added services. This has forced mobile operators to crash the cost of data services and pursue the idea of selling routers to consumers to use their data services. However, there is also something else and that’s billing. Billing has played a big role in access to fast data and quality voice services. The operators alone are not be blamed for this as it is quite expensive to set up such ventures in the region due to lack of quality infrastructure like power and security (vandalism).


Read/Download the full GSMA report here or you can can read it below;

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