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Sub-Saharan Africa to Surpass Half a Billion Mobile Subscribers by End of Decade, Finds New GSMA Study

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More than half a billion people across Sub-Saharan Africa will be subscribed to a mobile service by the end of a decade, according to a new GSMA study. The new report, ‘The Mobile Economy: Sub-Saharan Africa 2017’, was published today at the GSMA Mobile 360 – Africa event here. It forecasts that the number of unique mobile subscribers1 in Sub-Saharan Africa will grow from 420 million (43 per cent of the population) at the end of 2016 to 535 million (50 per cent of the population) in 2020, making it the fastest growing region in the world over this period. The report also highlights the Sub-Saharan Africa mobile ecosystem’s growing contribution to regional GDP, jobs, innovation and socio-economic development.

“Sub-Saharan Africa will be a key engine of subscriber growth for the world’s mobile industry over the next few years as we connect millions of previously unconnected men, women and young people across the continent,” said Mats Granryd, Director General of the GSMA. “Mobile is also offering sustainable solutions that address the lack of access to services such as health, education, electricity, clean water and financial services, which still affect large swathes of the population.”

Connecting the Young and Closing the Gender Gap

Subscriber growth is expected to be concentrated in large, underpenetrated markets such as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Nigeria and Tanzania, which together will account for half of the 115 million new subscribers expected in Sub-Saharan Africa by 2020. Growth will also focus on currently under-represented segments such as the under-16 age group, which accounts for more than 40 per cent of the population in many countries, and women, who are currently 17 per cent less likely to have a mobile phone subscription than their male counterparts.

Mobile is also a vital tool in delivering digital and financial inclusion in Sub-Saharan Africa. Around 270 million people in the region now access the internet through mobile devices, while the number of registered mobile money accounts has reached 280 million. Mobile operators and others are also leveraging the ubiquity of mobile networks across the region to deliver services that are working towards achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)2 in areas such as energy, water and sanitation, healthcare, and education.

Driving the Regional Economy and Building a Digital Africa

Mobile technologies and services generated $110 billion of economic value in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2016, equivalent to 7.7 per cent of regional GDP3 – a figure expected to grow to $142 billion (8.6 per cent of GDP) by 2020. The mobile ecosystem also directly and indirectly supported approximately 3.5 million jobs in the region last year, and made a $13 billion contribution to the public sector in the form of taxation.

Local mobile operators have invested $37 billion in their networks over the past five years, mainly to deploy new 3G/4G mobile broadband networks. About a third of mobile connections in region were running on mobile broadband networks at the end of last year, forecast to rise to 60 per cent by 2020. These new networks – alongside rising smartphone adoption – are driving demand for digital content and services.

“As Sub-Saharan Africa transitions to higher levels of mobile engagement, underpinned by growing access to mobile data services and smart devices, we are seeing a flourishing mobile ecosystem emerge, supported by growing investments by operators and others in mobile-focused start-ups and tech hubs,” added Granryd. “Building this digital society requires collaboration between governments and the mobile industry to develop the policies and programmes that create the right incentives for innovation and an enabling environment for extending connectivity to all.”

The new report ‘The Mobile Economy: Sub-Saharan Africa 2017’ is authored by GSMA Intelligence, the research arm of the GSMA. To access the full report and related infographics, please visit: http://www.gsma.com/mobileeconomy

Mobile 360 – Africa

The 2017 GSMA Mobile 360 Series – Africa is the third in a series of eight industry-focused events held in major cities across the world. For information on Mobile 360 – Africa, please visit www.mobile360series.com/africa. Follow developments and updates on Mobile 360 – Africa (#m360Africa) on Twitter @GSMA, on Facebook www.facebook.com/Mobile360Series and LinkedIn on www.linkedin.com/company/gsma-mobile-360-series.

-ENDS-

About the GSMA

The GSMA represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide, uniting nearly 800 operators with more than 300 companies in the broader mobile ecosystem, including handset and device makers, software companies, equipment providers and internet companies, as well as organisations in adjacent industry sectors. The GSMA also produces industry-leading events such as Mobile World Congress, Mobile World Congress Shanghai, Mobile World Congress Americas and the Mobile 360 Series of conferences.

For more information, please visit the GSMA corporate website at www.gsma.com. Follow the GSMA on Twitter: @GSMA.

1 A unique mobile subscriber represents an individual that can account for multiple SIM connections

2 The United Nations member states adopted a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in September 2015. The SDGs set a number of targets, including ending poverty, halting climate change, and fighting injustice and inequality, by 2030. http://www.gsma.com/betterfuture/

3 GDP contribution includes direct ecosystem contribution (2.6%); indirect contribution (0.7%); and productivity improvements (4.3%).

Contact information

Media Contacts:
Weber Shandwick
David Ntwampe Maila
+ 27 72 015 4702
dmaila@webershandwick.com
or
Clare Fenny
+44 20 7067 0749
CFenny@webershandwick.com
or
GSMA Press Office
pressoffice@gsma.com

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