M360Africa: Mobile subscriptions to rise to 52% in Sub-Saharan Africa by 2025

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Map of Sub-Saharan Africa

More than half the population of Sub-Saharan Africa will be subscribed to a mobile service by 2025 owing to increased concentration in rural, low ARPU [average revenue per user] markets and the youth.

GSMA’s Mobile Economy new report forecast that that there will be 634 million unique mobile subscribers across Sub-Saharan Africa by 2025, equivalent to 52 per cent of the population, up from 444 million (44 per cent) at the end of last year.

“For many citizens across the region, particularly those living in rural areas, a mobile phone is not just a communications device but also the primary channel for getting online and a vital tool for improving their lives,” commented John Giusti, Chief Regulatory Officer at the GSMA on the report published at the GSMA ‘Mobile 360 – Africa’ event being held in Kigali this week.

Subscriber growth in Sub-Saharan Africa has slowed in recent years as the industry confronts the challenges of affordability and a youthful population. World Bank data indicates that around 40% of the population in the region are under the age of 16, a demographic segment that has significantly lowered levels of mobile ownership than the population as a whole.

Unique mobile subscriber penetration in Sub-Saharan Africa stood at 44% at the end of 2017, still well below the global average of 66%. The subscriber base in the region totaled 444 million, equivalent to around 9% of subscribers globally.

“More needs to be done to extend connectivity to the remaining unconnected and underserved populations across Sub-Saharan Africa, but this will require a focus on long-term industry sustainability that can only be achieved through investment-friendly policies and supportive regulatory frameworks,” added Giusti.

However, despite these challenges, smartphone adoption continues to increase rapidly thanks to lower device costs, which is serving to accelerate migration to 3G/4G mobile broadband networks and services.

The report predicts that mobile broadband will account for 87 per cent of mobile connections in Sub-Saharan Africa by 2025, up from 38 per cent in 2017. Moreover, nearly 300 million new subscribers are expected to use their devices to access mobile internet services over the next seven years.

Last year, mobile technologies and services accounted for 7.1 per cent of GDP across Sub-Saharan Africa, a contribution that amounted to $110 billion of economic value added.

By 2022, the region’s mobile economy is forecast to generate more than $150 billion (7.9 per cent of GDP) of economic value as countries continue to benefit from improvements in productivity and efficiency, particularly due to the increase in mobile internet adoption.

The region’s mobile ecosystem also supported 3 million jobs in 2017 and contributed almost $14 billion to the funding of the public sector in the form of general taxation as well as sector-specific levies on the consumption of mobile services.

The report also includes examples of how mobile networks and services are playing a key role in delivering the UN’s Sustainable Developments Goals (SDGs), as well as supporting a fast-growing tech startup ecosystem. Many tech startups in Africa now use mobile as the primary platform to create solutions that address a range of socioeconomic challenges.

“Sub-Saharan Africa’s mobile industry is showing strong progress in achieving the targets of the SDGs, predominantly through increased connectivity and access to information, but also through the delivery of services, such as mobile money, that increase productivity, improve well-being and reduce poverty,” added Giusti.

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