Mobile users in Africa have a bright future

July 18, 2013

African mobile users are now embracing the newest generation of apps and applications developed by local companies, who see a gold mine in the continent’s largely untapped potential for smartphone growth that remain far way below the global average. Smartphones still make up a small proportion of total phone shipments to African countries. Close to 20 percent of the projected 150 million mobile devices to be shipped this year, compared to 13 percent of the 100 million devices last year are expected to be smartphones. In countries like Tanzania, Kenya, Angola, Nigeria, Uganda and South Africa credits the proliferation of affordable Android handsets and the free apps available for that operating system have contributed extensively to the growth of smartphone market. In the 13 African countries I have visited, the free app demand is huge but few consumers in the continent are willing to pay for apps. The popularity of messaging apps that allow the user to send messages and make voice calls including video calls over a data network makes it cheaper for mobile users compared to sending an SMS or placing a mobile phone call.

Safaricom is the largest telecom company in East and Central Africa region
Safaricom is the largest telecom company in East and Central Africa region

In countries like Kenya, Nigeria, Botswana and South Africa, such apps have garnered huge followings and more than 50 million users in Africa use them largely because of their communications features as well as extras such as photo album sharing and cell broadcast services. Currently, mobile phone operators across the continent are reaping big from selling data packages with operators like Orange with operations in Kenya and Uganda, offer data bundles ranging from daily to monthly, to suit all budget needs of the consumers. However, as Vodacom South African and MTN Ghana results shows mobile operators are taking an even bigger hit to the mainstay of their revenue streams mainly in SMS and voice calls. What network operators in African have failed to appreciate is that people no longer text all the time as they used to be and they are now chatting all the time hence the reason for popularity of whatsapp. There is no doubt SMS revenue stream has seen started experiencing decline. Data package subscriptions for mobile Internet have shown growth but that isn’t satisfying to operators in the continent. However, with governments investing heavily on bandwidth infrastructures, costs of communication is expected to come down significantly and the main beneficiaries will be mobile users in Africa.

Contador Harrison