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Africa’s Mobile Market Growing Rapidly, Penetration Predicted to Surpass 80% by Early 2013

Africa-mobile-phones-in-u-007In part due to the scarce availability of fixed-lines, Africa has seen a mobile boom in recent years as more and more people turn to cellular phones to communicate across long distances. Mobile technology has a higher coverage rate due to “cheaper infrastructure and larger regional penetration, cheaper handsets, competitive markets and business models oriented to the needs of the poorer segments of the population,” says a report from the ITU in 2007.

This makes Africa one of the largest boom markets for mobile. For example, cellular penetration in Africa is predicted to surpass 80% by the end of Q1 2013, according to a recent research report from ABI Research. Though most of Africa is still using the 2G standard and working with cheaper phones, there is tremendous potential in the market. Currently around 62.7% of subscriptions are dominated by voice and text messaging, yet 11% of the market uses 3G and 27% utilizes 2.5G access.

Africa is a continent with 54 countries and nearly 1.08 billion people. Of those 1.08 billion people, approximately 821 million are mobile subscribers. With such a large market that is largely untapped at the moment, 3G and smartphone technology holds a vast amount of growth potential, especially as cheaper Android phones hit the markets worldwide, many coming from China.

What is perhaps the most incredible development, however, is that mobile banking technology is already being adopted in places such as Kenya and Uganda, where bank transfers have essentially been replaced by text message transfers through the likes of M-Pesa and MobileMoney.

With companies such as Lenovo expanding into Russia and Southeast Asia recently, as well as with Huawei and ZTE running against trade and security hurdles in America and Europe, Africa should be a good target for Chinese manufacturers in the coming years. Still, they should avoid pitfalls in reputation, as recent articles have revealed that Kenya is suspicious of Chinese knockoff mobile products.

The cell phone market in Africa is expected to grow to 1.12 billion by 2017, making up an estimated 13.9% of the global cellular market.

Image source: The Guardian

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About this author:

Matt is an editor for mobiSights who has been living in China since 2011. As an expatriate living in Beijing, Matt has a passion for languages, travel and technology. You can follow him on his Twitter here.