2013 looks set to be the year where Africa’s telecom industry becomes the latest hotbed of innovation and growth, with the rapidly increasing number of mobile subscribers standing in stark contrast to the plateauing figures elsewhere in the world.
Africa, which has not been synonymous with development and innovation, has witnessed a reversal in trend with more developed nations now looking up to mobile usage in Africa, a GSMA and Informa Telecomsreport says.
By the end of this year, mobile subscribers in Africa will top the 750 million mark with one billion users expected to come in the next few years.
According to the report, Africa has the “highest rate of growth in mobile subscriptions among major world regions, with the number of mobile subscriptions in Africa forecasted to grow by 17.5 percent over the year to end-2012, a higher rate than in any other major world region and above the world average of 10.75 percent over the same period.”
A report by market research firm ABI Research forecasts Africa’s growth rate to be the highest globally. Western Europe “has been and will continue be the worst performer, with mobile service revenue tumbling since 2008 and predicted to deteriorate through 2018”.
Africa, on the other hand, looks set to grow considerably. With a projected compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.3 percent, the report states the continent’s service revenue will beat the worldwide average by more than two fold.
With these gains, the continent is now stepping to the next level of implementing applications that can use the mobile technology to solve its local issues.
Although the majority of the devices are feature phones, this has not slowed down the development of applications that are free of data. For instance, ForgetMeNot Africa has carried out some good initiatives this year with dataless applications. It also partnered with major mobile telephone companies to launch services such as access to Facebook or email through USSD and SMS text, meaning more people, especially in rural Africa where access to internet is a challenge, have some connection to the Web.
M-Pesa mobile money service has been a leading light being used by Kenyans and Tanzania in a successful way, another ground-breaking application that can be used with all types of phones. The next step is to build on the M-Pesa platform with other products.
eHealth and eEducation are some of the innovations that have achieved great gains that will be closely monitored. Recently, Vodacom partnered with GAVI to provide health information services to some African countries.