The number of unique mobile subscribers in sub-Saharan Africa will exceed the half billion mark in 2020 as mobile services become increasingly affordable and accessible to millions of currently unconnected citizens across the region, according to a forecast by the industry trade group.
According to a new report by GSM Association (GSMA), the organisation that represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide, titled “Mobile Economy 2014: Sub-Saharan Africa”, the region has been the world’s fastest-growing mobile region over the last five years in terms of both unique mobile subscribers and mobile connections, and is forecast to continue to lead global growth through 2020. Unique mobile subscriber penetration as a percentage of the region’s population is forecast to rise to 49 percent by this point.
“The mobile industry has transformed the lives of millions of people across Sub-Saharan Africa, providing not just connectivity but also an essential gateway to a wide range of healthcare, education and financial services,” said Anne Bouverot, Director General of the GSMA.
“As today’s report shows, millions of additional citizens in the region will become mobile subscribers over the next six years, with many being able to access the internet for the first time via low-cost smartphones and mobile broadband networks. Operators and other ecosystem players, as well as governments and regulators, all have a role to play in ensuring that affordable mobile services can be extended across the region”, Bouverot added.
The report also reveals that the six largest markets, in order of size, are Nigeria, South Africa, Ethiopia, Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania, which together account for over half of the region’s unique mobile subscriber base. There were 329 million unique mobile subscribers in sub-Saharan Africa at the end of June 2014, equivalent to 38 percent of the region’s total population.
This unique subscriber base is forecast to grow by 7 percent per year (Cumulative Average Growth Rate) to 2020 to reach over half a billion and account for 49 percent of the population. By this point, sub-Saharan Africa will have overtaken Europe to become the world’s second-largest mobile market after Asia Pacific, according to the report.