May 17, 2019

The Mobile Industry Plays an Increasingly Important Role in Accelerating Social Progress in West Africa

West Africa's mobile ecosystem generated more than $50 billion in economic value last year – equivalent to 8.7 percent of the region's GDP, according to a GSMA study. Authored by GSMA Intelligence, the research arm of the GSMA, The Mobile Economy, West Africa 2019 further finds that rising mobile phone ownership and the ongoing migration to mobile broadband networks and services across the region will see the mobile ecosystem's economic contribution continue to increase over the coming years, forecast to reach almost $70 billion (9.5 percent of GDP) by 2023.

Available in both English and Fran├žais, the report reveals that:
  • The number of unique mobile subscribers across West Africa reached 185 million at the end of 2018, equivalent to 48 percent of the region's population. This number is forecast to rise to 248 million by 2025, 54 percent of the population;
  • Future subscriber growth will largely be driven by young consumers owning a mobile phone for the first time; more than 40 percent of the region's population are under 18 years old, according to the report;
  • 3G will overtake 2G to become the leading mobile technology in West Africa this year, supporting about half of the region's mobile connections. 4G momentum is also building: ten new 4G networks have recently launched in West Africa, including the first ever 4G networks in Burkina Faso, Sierra Leone and Togo;
  • Local mobile operators are increasing investment in their networks and are expected to spend $8.5 billion (capex) on network infrastructure and services over the next two years (2019/2020);
  • West Africa's mobile ecosystem directly employs around 200,000 people, supports 800,000 jobs in the informal employment sector, and a further 600,000 jobs across the wider economy; and
  • Mobile is the primary platform for accessing the internet in West Africa; at the end of 2018, there were around 100 million mobile internet users in the region, up almost 20 million year-on-year.
On the topic of mobile contribution to social progress, the report says "[t]he mobile industry plays an increasingly important role in accelerating social progress in West Africa. With a sizeable proportion of the sub-region's population excluded from many services, mobile-enabled digital platforms provide a vital opportunity to deliver solutions that can improve the livelihood of the most vulnerable people in the society and foster greater socioeconomic inclusion. Across West Africa, the activities of mobile operators and other ecosystem players are enhancing digital and financial inclusion, driving innovation and supporting efforts to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)."

Eleven years remain until the 2030 deadline to achieve the SGDs. The report notes: "Countries in the sub-region face an uphill task to attain these goals, mainly due to acute resource and infrastructure gaps. The mobile industry is, however, well positioned to support governments, the development community and other stakeholders in efforts to accelerate progress on key SDG targets. This is achieved in three main ways:
  • Deployment of infrastructure and networks: The mobile industry drives impact through the provision of – and investment in – high-performing mobile networks, which provide the foundations for the digital economy and act as a catalyst for a diverse and innovative range of services.
  • Access and connectivity: Mobile operators are continuing to connect the unconnected, with 30 million new mobile subscribers and 50 million new mobile internet subscribers across West Africa since 2015.
  • Enabling services and relevant content: Mobile connectivity continues to transform the lives of millions of people across West Africa, by enabling the delivery of life-enhancing services, including education, health and financial inclusion. This is especially significant given the challenge of providing the services by conventional means amid considerable infrastructure and funding gaps."
The report encouragingly explains that "[t]he tech start-up ecosystem in West Africa is growing rapidly, with the emergence of a new generation of tech entrepreneurs and increasing funding from private investors. Tech innovators increasingly use mobile platforms, such as connectivity, mobile money and cellular IoT, to create and distribute innovative solutions that address a wide range of local challenges. This is helping bridge the digital content gap through the development of homegrown content and services with direct relevance to local consumers."

Infographic: GSMA Intelligence
What localized content or services do you think will provide value to West Africa's mobile ecosystem?

Aaron Rose is a board member, corporate advisor, and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of Solutions for a Sustainable World.

No comments:

Post a Comment