About ten years ago, the Economist labeled famine-ridded and politically unstable Africa as the “Hopeless Continent.”
A recent study released by ABI Research today shows cellular penetration in Africa to pass 80 percent by the beginning of 2013. Africa is quickly one of the most interconnected and logged-on regions on Earth.
For much of the 20th Century, Africa languished behind the Western World. The state of telecommunications and electricity was pitiful. With cell phones, Africans are proving they can wire themselves into the world without lethargic communications companies or governments.
The wave of mobile devices paired with how Africans are using their phones is doing wonders for the often ignored continent. The Economist rebranded Africa as the “Hopeful Continent” last year.
“While Western Europe languishes with barely positive overall growth quarter-on-quarter,” explained Marina Lu, research associate with ABI Research, “Africa managed to generate 4.2 percent growth in the same period.”
“Subscriptions are still very much dominated by voice communications and text messaging in the form of GSM, with 62.7 percent. 3G subscriptions…still only represent 11 percent of the overall African market, while 27 percent of the market still relies on 2.5G access technologies for mobile data access,” stated Jake Saunders, Vice President of Forecasting for ABI Research.
CNN’s Toby Shapshak noted that Africa is not just mobile, it’s mobile only. Most Westerners experience the web through PC and tablet screens. Most Africans experience the internet through tiny phones and in black and white text.
Many without electricity still have mobile connection, charging a week’s worth of battery in an area with more infrastructure. Google searches can be accessed with SMS texts and many African phones double as FM radios.
The extreme penetration of mobile devices has majorly affected the continent and its populace. Mobile communication paved the way for the historic protests last spring in North Africa. Banking apps allow rural villagers and farmers do business digitally. Texts from government and United Nation organizations can warn people of natural disaster or potential violence; they can also link refugees with their families.
Mobile devices are also assisting Africans in vital areas like education and health care, as well as allowing the movie and music industries to reach customers.
ABI Research listed the top 7 mobile companies in Africa: