Earlier this year, the world watched as people in the North African nations of Tunisia and Egypt began popular revolutions and mobilized global support for their cause with the use of cell phones and other mobile technology. Now, a new report shows that the seemingly pervasive use of mobile technology in those countries, and around Africa, is more than mere speculation.
According to the GSM Association, an industry trade group for worldwide mobile phone operators, Africa is the fastest-growing mobile market in the world, second to Asia.
Given a 20 percent rate of growth each year for the past five years, the GSM report predicts that there will be a record of more than 735 million subscribers in Africa by the end of 2012.
"That is equivalent to a 65 percent penetration rate. Out of every 100 people, 65 have some form of mobile connectivity," Peter Lyons, GSM Association’s director of spectrum policy for Africa and Middle East, told the BBC.
Dispute the promising figures, Lyons says that now is not the time for African countries to rest. He says that governments can use the market saturation to reap large profits in tax revenue, if planned correctly.
“The mobile industry in Africa is booming and a catalyst for immense growth, but there is scope for far greater development,” Lyons said. “To take full advantage of its potential, African countries need to both allocate more spectrum for the provision of Mobile Broadband services, as well as introduce tax cuts for the industry. By doing so, they will increase consumption of mobile services, thereby boosting their economic and social development.”
The report attributes the success of cell phones to expensive, low-quality landline connections available in Africa. Also, in addition to creating wealth directly in the mobile industry, the rise of cellular technology in Africa has helped other companies to flourish and allowed the populace to become better informed and more connected. Text-based services in many countries offer critical information regarding health (such as informing mothers on immunization time tables for children) and agriculture, for example, helping farmers connect with reputable suppliers.
(Photo: dpa/Oliver Berg /Landov)