Mobile use in sub-Saharan Africa climbs

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Not only is sub-Saharan Africa home to some of the fastest-growing economies in the world, the mobile market is exploding, according to a report (.pdf) published Nov. 14 by mobile operator coalition GSMA and Deloitte.

Since 2000, the number of mobile connections in sub Saharan Africa has grown by 44 percent—much more than the average for developing regions, 34 percent, and developed regions, 10 percent. In 2010, there were 28 mobile connections for each fixed line subscription, finds the report.

Investment in expanding network capacity has led operators to increase the number of base stations in Nigeria, Tanzania, South Africa, Kenya and Ghana by 250 percent from 2007 to 2012, write report authors.

For most consumers in the region, mobile broadband provides their sole access to the Internet. As such, mobile web browsing is the highest in the world, with countries such as Zimbabwe reporting that 58.1 percent of web traffic is from mobile devices.

Mobile-enabled Internet access can provide many opportunities to people in the region, however, there are several challenges to mobile broadband expansion in sub-Saharan Africa. For one, the amount of spectrum allocated to mobile is among the lowest worldwide.

According to report authors, some countries allocate as little as 80 megahertz. Allocations in developed markets typically exceed 500 megahertz, with Europe aiming to allocate 1000 megahertz, note authors.

What's more, "Africa has the highest taxation as a proportion of the total cost of mobile ownership among developing regions worldwide," write report authors.

Taxes on mobile devices are much higher than in any other region and sector-specific taxes on mobile terminals and usage have increased in recent years. For example, Kenya, a hotbed of innovation for mobile banking services, announced a 10 percent tax on money transaction services.

Authors say foreign investment is sometimes hamstrung by regulatory regimes that are not "modern, transparent and predictable."

For more:
- download the report, "Sub-Saharan Africa Mobile Observatory 2012" (.pdf)

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