The Africa headquarters will be based in Nairobi’s iHub and will enable the GSMA to work more closely with its members and other industry stakeholders to extend the reach and socio-economic benefits to mobile throughout the continent.
Speaking at a media briefing, GSMA’s Director General Anne Bouverot said they were excited to launch the new office in Africa as the region is becoming increasingly vibrant and critical market to the mobile industry.
“The rapid pace of mobile adoption has delivered an explosion of innovation and huge economic benefits in the region, directly contributing US$ 32 billion to the Sub-Saharan African economy or 4.4 percent of GDP. With necessary spectrum allocations and transparent regulation, the mobile industry could also fuel the creation of 14.9 million jobs in the region between 2015 and 2020,” Bouverot said.
GSMA is an association of mobile telcos and operators across the world with 800 members spread across 220 countries including Kenya.
Mobile connections in Sub-Saharan Africa increased by 20 percent to 500 million in 2013 and are expected to increase by an additional 50 percent by 2018.
The GSMA’s permanent presence in Kenya will enable the organisation to work closely with its members to put the conditions in place that will facilitate the expansion of mobile communication bringing important connectivity and services to all in the region.
Kenya’s strategic location and innovative and regulatory environment were some of the factors that pulled GSMA to Nairobi.
Of particular focus for the Africa office will be the development of mobile technologies and platforms to improve health, agriculture and education services and financial inclusion.
“Africa is a mobile-first continent. The level of innovation we have seen in this (mobile) space is unprecedented anywhere in the world. We will be looking to support these kind of social services that can, for instance, build on the already successful models like M-PESA,” said Chris Locke, Managing Director, Mobile for Development – an arm of GSMA.
The Africa office will also deepen the already existing research and analysis work done by the Mobile for Development Intelligence unit of GSMA.
According to the latest GSMA’s Wireless Intelligence data, total mobile connections in Sub-Saharan Africa passed the 500 million mark in Q1 2013, increasing by about 20 percent year-on-year.
Connections are expected to grow by a further 50 percent, or 250 million connections, over the next five years which requires greater regulatory certainty to foster investment and release of additional harmonised spectrum for mobile.
The region currently accounts for about two-thirds of connections in Africa. It also has the highest levels of mobile internet usage globally.
In Zimbabwe and Nigeria, mobile accounts for over half of all web traffic at 58.1 percent and 57.9 percent respectively, compared to a 10 percent global average.
3G penetration levels are forecast to reach a quarter of the population in Sub-Saharan Africa by 2017 (from six percent in 2012) as the use of mobile-specific services develops.
However, despite the high number of connections, rapid growth and mobile internet usage, mobile penetration among individuals remains relatively low.
Fewer than 250 million people had subscribed to a mobile service in the region, putting unique subscriber penetration at 30 percent, meaning that more than two-thirds of the population has yet to acquire their first mobile phone.
GSMA there is an important opportunity for the mobile industry to bring connectivity, access to information and services to the people in this region.