The number of unique mobile subscribers in Sub-Saharan Africa will pass the half billion mark in 2020 as mobile services become increasingly affordable and accessible to millions of currently unconnected citizens across the region. According to a report by GSMA the region has been the world’s fastest-growing mobile region over the last five years in terms of both unique mobile subscribers and mobile connections, and is forecast to continue to lead global growth through 2020.
“The mobile industry has transformed the lives of millions of people across Sub-Saharan Africa, providing not just connectivity but also an essential gateway to a wide range of healthcare, education and financial services,” said Anne Bouverot, Director General of the GSMA.
The six largest markets, in order of size, are Nigeria, South Africa, Ethiopia, Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania, which together account for over half of the region’s unique mobile subscriber base.
The number of mobile connections in the region stood at 608 million in June 2014, forecast to rise to 975 million by 2020. The region is seeing a rapid migration to mobile broadband networks; 3G accounted for only 17 per cent of total connections in June 2014, but is forecast to account for more than half of the total by 2020. 4G adoption is at an early stage in the region today, but is expected to account for 4 per cent of total connections by 2020.
The mobile industry is a valuable and growing contributor to the regional economies of Sub-Saharan Africa. In 2013, the mobile industry contributed 5.4 per cent to overall gross domestic product (GDP) in the region, equivalent to US$75 billion; this included a direct contribution by mobile operators of US$27 billion or 1.9 per cent of GDP. It is estimated that by 2020 the mobile industry will contribute US$104 billion to the region’s economy, representing at that point 6.2 per cent of the region’s projected GDP.