May 29, 2017

Mobile Technology Is Helping to Achieve Sustainable Development Goals in West Africa

A new report published by GSMA explains that "by the end of 2016, there were 172 million unique subscribers in West Africa, accounting for 320 million mobile connections. The sub-region's subscriber penetration rate now stands at 49%, slightly higher than the 47% penetration rate across the wider Sub-Saharan Africa region." The Mobile Economy West Africa 2017, which is available in both English and Français, further asserts: "Over the next four years, West Africa will see average subscriber growth of 6%, one of the fastest rates globally, resulting in an additional 45 million subscribers by 2020. The biggest market in the sub-region – Nigeria – will account for two-thirds of this growth, with another quarter coming from Benin, Côte d'Ivoire, Mali, Niger and Senegal."

In the chapter titled, "Mobile Enabling Innovation," the report says: "Mobile has emerged as the platform of choice for creating, distributing and consuming innovative digital solutions and services across West Africa. This trend is driven by the rapid expansion of mobile networks across the sub-region and the growing adoption of smartphones. More than a quarter of the population now subscribe to mobile internet services, a figure that will nearly double to 43% by 2020."

Furthermore, mobile technology is "helping achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the subregion, providing access to tools and applications that address a range of socioeconomic challenges. Mobile has been used, for example, to spread awareness of disease outbreak, such as the Ebola virus in 2014/15, and by the World Food Program to provide humanitarian assistance to refugees and displaced persons in Mali and Nigeria."

In the chapter titled "Realizing the Full Potential of Mobile Across West Africa," the report notes that "the mobile industry makes an important contribution to the economy across the West Africa region, driving economic growth and jobs while helping to fund public services."

I am encouraged by the findings of the GSMA report with respect to the role mobile technology will play in West Africa's socioeconomic development. In the coming years, my colleagues and I will see local startups in the region developing innovative platforms and services in cloud computing, connected devices, e-commerce, financial technology and mobile applications (particularly in education and health).

What are you thoughts about the report?

Aaron Rose is an advisor to talented entrepreneurs and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of Solutions for a Sustainable World.

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