Harare - Growth prospects for sub-Saharan Africa’s mobile phone market are significant as over half the region's population does not have access to a mobile phone.
This is according to a Frost & Sullivan study called ‘Sub Saharan African Mobile End-user Trends'.
"The mobile penetration in the region is expected to increase from 52% in 2012 to 79% 2020. Overall, in terms of mobile phone usage, SSA will be the fastest growing region globally over the next seven years," said the researchers.
The study has noted that because “more than half of the population (in the region) has no access to a mobile phone” it offers immense opportunities for telecommunication companies, device and module vendors as well as application providers.
“The introduction of affordable smartphones, specifically designed for the African market, has improved the market scenario,” said Frost & Sullivan Information & Communication Technologies Industry Analyst Joanita Roos on Wednesday.
"Mobile broadband connections are now anticipated to quadruple from its 2012 figure to reach 160 million in 2016," Roos added.
The projected increase in take-up of mobile broadband internet in the region has been attributed to the increased coverage of 3G networks, the rise of local content, and the development of a range of new applications.
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The study added that mobile broadband is expected to be a significant driver for the telecommunications industry in the next five years as fixed lines throughout Africa are constrained by costs, coverage and reliability.
“As mobile devices start to gain popularity in SSA, other related end-user trends are also beginning to surface,” added Roos.
“For example, the large unbanked population and rural environment in the region is fuelling the use of mobile financial services,” Roos said.
As a result of this trend, manufacturers have started “creating sustainable business models to leverage broadband in the mobile financial services market”. Others have also started developing low cost smartphones aimed specifically for the regional market
Africa’s booming population, most of which will still be youthful during the next five years is expected to “drive the demand for mobile devices and services,” says the study. Moreover, enterprise customers will likely start to demand more “advanced mobile services, such as fixed mobile convergence (FMC)”.
Naila Govan-Vassen, an ICT industry analyst said last month that "communication markets (in Africa) will become more liberal, especially in countries where governments understand the correlation between ICT development and economic growth".
“New market entrants will emerge in Africa, which will either tap into unexplored markets (for example, the case of Movitel in Mozambique) or strategically acquire a company. The mergers and acquisitions are taking place between and within MNOs, state owned operators, system integrators and managed services,” he added.