November 23, 2022

5G-Related Activities Are Picking Up in Sub-Saharan Africa

"As countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, and the rest of the world, transition into a post-pandemic economic recovery phase, mobile connectivity is set to play a crucial role in defining the 'new normal,' according to the GSMA. In its latest annual report on the state of region's mobile economy, the UK-based organization that represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide adds that "Authorities see an opportunity to leverage digital technology and services to build economies that are more resilient to future shocks, enhance productivity and efficiency in service delivery, and ensure more inclusive socioeconomic development."

What is more, "In Sub-Saharan Africa, 40% of the adult population are now connected to mobile internet services. However, another 44% live in areas covered by mobile broadband networks but do not yet use mobile internet services (the usage gap)." The report importantly notes that "Addressing the main barriers to mobile internet adoption for these people, including affordability and digital skills, should be a priority for stakeholders in order to realize the potential of mobile connectivity to drive economic growth and development in a post-pandemic world."

Other key findings from the report include:
  • In 2021, the mobile ecosystem supported more than 3.2 million jobs (directly and indirectly) and made a substantial contribution to the funding of the public sector, with $16 billion raised through taxes on the sector.
  • By 2025, mobile's contribution to the GDP of Sub-Sahara Africa will grow by $65 billion (to almost $155 billion), as the countries in the region increasingly benefit from increased take-up of mobile services.
  • By 2025, 4G will account for a third of mobile connections in the region, compared to under a fifth of connections in 2021.

The report encouragingly explains that "5G-related activities are beginning to pick up across the region. These include 5G spectrum auctions, 5G pilots and commercial trials, and efforts to develop locally relevant 5G use cases." Moreover, "While the general consensus remains that a widespread 5G rollout is more of a long-term prospect in Sub-Saharan Africa, there is a strong case to utilize the technology in some scenarios to serve certain connectivity requirements for individuals and enterprises."

With respect presence in the metaverse in Sub-Saharan Africa, the GSMA says that while "The metaverse (which continues to lack a universally agreed-upon definition) is still nascent. ... significant levels of investment in metaverse initiatives and market-size estimates reflect the opportunities possible from the rapid advancement of the metaverse over the coming years."

The report adds that "The metaverse ecosystem is growing around the world, including in Sub-Saharan Africa. Indeed, the region presents significant growth prospects for the metaverse, given its young tech-savvy population and thriving tech startup ecosystem. This is beginning to attract the attention of global metaverse ecosystem players."

The GSMA correctly asserts that policymakers can help spur inclusive development. "Mobile connectivity has the potential to accelerate Sub-Saharan Africa's digital transformation and drive socioeconomic advancement in areas such as healthcare, education, digital commerce, industrial automation and smart city infrastructure. Realizing this potential requires policy measures to support network investments and improve the affordability of digital services for consumers. Governments and regulators in the region should therefore adopt forward-looking spectrum management and fiscal policies:, which includes:
  • "creating a spectrum roadmap to ensure there is enough spectrum to meet surging demand for mobile services in both the short and long term
  • "ensuring access to mid-band spectrum, in particular 3.5 GHz, given its importance to the future of 5G
  • "accelerating access to sub-1 GHz spectrum to provide widespread rural mobile broadband services
  • "applying best-practice principles of taxation as recommended by international organizations such as the World Bank and the IMF."

Infographic: GSMA

How do you see mobile connectivity driving the acceleration of Sub-Saharan Africa's digital transformation and driving socioeconomic advancement?

Aaron Rose is a board member, corporate advisor, and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of GT Perspectives, an online forum focused on turning perspective into opportunity.

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