Mobile Boom Driving Africans Online

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Over 50% of the fastest-growing economies on the planet are in Africa. It’s a dynamic, fast-moving continent that is making huge strides to catch up with Western economies, with many countries having the potential to become leading markets in their own right.

Let’s put some of that into numbers, shall we? In Sub-Saharan Africa alone, $170 billion was added to the overall economy by the mobile industry in 2023 alone, representing 8.1% of the total GDP. Penetration rates in the region stand at approximately 489 million, which suggests a 43% penetration rate. And by 2030, this figure is expected to reach 88%.

Translated, this means that an increasing number of African citizens are using smartphones combined with high-speed 4/5G internet, a 1-2 punch that is driving a mobile boom that is not only growing the economy, but transforming society as a whole. We’ll explore why we’re seeing this growth and what it means in the wider picture.

Mobile Boom = More Options

The rapid expansion of high-speed cell phone connections and affordable smartphones has not gone unnoticed by the wider market. The boom has resulted in more options for consumers, further increasing demand, and fueling more users.

Video Games + iGaming

In the face of an overall global downturn, Africa’s gaming industry is bucking the trend. It’s expected to reach record figures topping $1 billion in 2024, with iGaming being a significant driver of overall growth.

South Africa in particular is one of the biggest success stories on the content, with a projected 12% CAGR for 2021-26. The establishment of many new online casinos in the country, the high number of indie game developers, and the appetite for AAA video games all represent a continent-wide trend of industry expansion and adoption.

EdTech

EdTech has traditionally struggled in Africa, primarily due to low external funding. In 2023, however, we’re seeing this trend finally reversing. Over 150 Edtech companies currently operate across 25 countries, many of which are fresh startups.

With 2020 seeing the expansion of the industry worldwide, it is now possible to access more affordable e-learning platforms, allowing local companies to leverage existing solutions to facilitate learning for students.

FinTech

Africa has long lagged behind leading economies due to the problem of the unbanked. Many citizens still do not have access to their own bank accounts, often operating just on cash, but mobile payment providers are changing the game.

Mobile technology allows for simple and quick transactions without even needing to open a bank account. In Kenya, the popular M-Pesa service has been absolutely transformative, giving access to technology that would have been a pipe dream just a few years ago.

Data and Smartphone Affordability

Cheap smartphones have been a ‘thing’ for many years. That was the first stumbling block for a lot of African citizens. Now, instead of having to fork out for the latest iPhone, consumers have access to a range of cheaper Android models.

Just a few months ago, for example, Airtel Rwanda released a full-feature smartphone for the price of just 20,000 Rwandan Francs, which equates to just over $160 (USD). Compare that to the latest entry-level smartphone, which comes in at $799. That’s more than the average person earns per month in the country.

Another major problem for most people was the prohibitive cost and lack of access to the internet. In Chad, for example, it cost over $500 for a broadband connection in 2016. And only 16% of the population in Africa had access to 4G internet just five years ago.

That’s now changing for the better, and rapidly. New cable grids are connecting inland population centres, driving down costs for consumers. Big tech is also getting involved, with Google investing in fibre networks to improve speeds and lower costs even further.

Average costs are now lower across the board compared to a global average. The current cost of 1 gigabyte of data in Algeria sits at $0.48, for example, with the global average at just over $3.

Youthful Africa

With youth comes adoption. Many in the older demographics tend to find it difficult to adopt new technologies, but this is the opposite with young people. And the age distribution is trending towards a younger population overall.

In 2023, 60% of the overall population is 25 or younger. By 2050, the United Nations predicts that there will be 2.4 billion people in this age bracket. Compare that to Japan, where almost a third of the population is over 65.

Expect More from Africa

In the next decade and beyond, the penetration rate should only increase. With the overall population even younger, smartphones more affordable than ever, and cell phone connections ubiquitous, access to the Internet will become available to the majority of the population.

Once most of Africa is ‘connected’, the possibilities are endless. We’re already seeing the fruits of higher penetration rates, an uptick in the middle class, and more affordable cell phone solutions.