Furthermore, "The informal economy accounts for a large part of the mobile ecosystem in Sub-Saharan Africa. Almost 1.2 million of the 1.7 million directly employed by the mobile ecosystem are informally employed in the distribution and retail of mobile services."
The Mobile Economy Sub-Saharan Africa 2019 states: "Mobile-enabled platforms are increasingly disrupting traditional value chains in different verticals across the region. These platforms – mostly developed by a rapidly expanding local tech start-up ecosystem – aim to eliminate inefficiencies in conventional business models, as well as extend the reach of services and provide greater choice to customers."
The report also reveals that:
- Around 239 million people, equivalent to 23 percent of the region's population, use the mobile internet on a regular basis;
- Smartphones accounted for 39 percent of mobile connections in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2018, forecast to increase to two-thirds of connections by 2025;
- 3G will overtake 2G to become the leading mobile technology in Sub-Saharan Africa this year;
- 4G will account for almost one in four connections by 2025. However, 4G uptake is being dampened in some markets by the high cost of 4G devices and delays in assigning 4G spectrum;
- The region's mobile operators are increasing investment in their networks and are expected to spend $60 billion (capex) on network infrastructure and services between 2018 and 2025 – almost a fifth of this total being invested in new 5G networks; and
- Sub-Saharan Africa's mobile ecosystem supports around 3.5 million jobs, directly and indirectly, and last year contributed almost $15.6 billion to the funding of the public sector through consumer and operator taxes.
With respect to supporting sustainable development through mobile-enabled services, the report points out that "[a]s the final decade of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) approaches, mobile technology will play an increasingly important role in accelerating progress. The impact of mobile will be particularly profound in developing regions, such as Sub-Saharan Africa, which face an uphill task to achieve the goals due to acute resource and infrastructure shortages. The mobile industry's support for the SDGs is demonstrated 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; across Sub-Saharan Africa, the mobile industry has connected 62 million new mobile subscribers and 90 million new mobile internet subscribers since 2015.
- Enabling services and relevant content: Mobile connectivity continues to transform the lives of millions of people across the region, by enabling the delivery of life-enhancing services, including education, health and financial inclusion. This is especially significant given the challenge of providing services by conventional means amid considerable infrastructure and funding gaps."
The report also explains that "[a]rtificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain – two of the most widely discussed transformative technologies over the last three to five years – are beginning to attract considerable interest in Sub-Saharan Africa. In April 2019, Google opened its first AI Lab center in Africa, located in Accra, Ghana, in addition to supporting machine intelligence programs at the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences center in Rwanda. In May 2019, Microsoft launched its Africa Development Center (ADC) with two initial sites in Nairobi, Kenya and Lagos, Nigeria, with local developers expected to focus on transformative technologies, such as AI and machine learning. AI and blockchain have the potential to help address a variety of social and economic challenges in the region, as evidenced by some of the use cases and applications being implemented."
What mobile solutions do you think will transform the lives of millions of people across Sub-Saharan Africa? Do you agree that AI and blockchain have the potential to help address a variety of social and economic challenges in the region?