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Africa is quickly emerging as the most lucrative market for mobile technologies and telecommunications innovation.
According to a joint report from the World Bank and the African Development Bank, rapid modernisation and upgrading of information infrastructures in just the past five years has enabled the number of cellular subscribers to reach 650 million in 2012.
Such a market is bigger than the US or the EU and comes second only to Asia.
The World Bank says that such growth is “quickly changing lives, driving entrepreneurship fueled in part by collaborative technology hubs, and delivering innovation and home-grown solutions for Africa”.
The report expects that Africa will also see an increase in Internet and computer usage, which will nourish a growth in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) innovations.
Current bandwidth growth has also grown by about 2000 per cent in the past 12 years fueling a corresponding growth in GDP.
ABI Research, however, puts the figure of cellular subscribers much higher.
In its quarterly updated report “Middle East and African Subscriber” it says: “In 3Q-2012, the 54 countries and 1.08 billion people have accumulated 821 million subscriptions, up 16.9 per cent year-on-year, resulting in a cellular subscription penetration of 76.4%.”
ABI expects cellular subscription penetration to push beyond the 80 per cent mark next year, with subscriptions reaching 1.2 billion by 2017.
The speed of such growth – nearly 40-fold over a period of 12 years – also comes on the heels of a sense of optimism from foreign and local investors that Africa is an emerging and promising new market.
At the second annual African Investment Summit held in London last week, Nigeria’s Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said the time was ripe to invest in Africa.
“We are no longer waiting for the US and Europe to invest, Africans are increasingly investing in Africa, and have the capacity to do so.”
But some telecommunications experts, such as GSMA, a UK-based cellular technology body, have warned that the burden now is on African governments to quickly keep pace with growing mobile markets by selling more bandwidth.
Africa currently has little in terms of fixed-line infrastructure to support the increased traffic.
As a result, it will need to boost bandwidth to make room for more mobile networks to meet consumer demand, industry analysts say.