In Africa, the number of people connected is increasing. Not necessarily via broadband Internet, but via mobile telephony. U a spectacular rise: in 2017, it is estimated that 97% of Africans will be equipped with a mobile phone. It is clear that the telephone is an issue of economic and digital development on the black continent. And this is where the digital transformation in Africa begins…
Africa is the 2nd largest mobile phone market in the world after Asia. Mobile usage is more than 80% higher than that of computers, tablets and other Internet connection media. Countries like Nigeria and South Africa are booming in subscriber numbers.
A revolution partly due to the strategy of operators who have opted for a low margin, while betting on a high number of subscribers. All while adapting to the African market and low income. This vision allowed mobile telephony to deploy very quickly.
On the other hand, the development of prepaid cards (widely used) or online credit refills has democratized the mobile phone. Of course, the subscription rate is still high. However, in Kenya the mobile penetration rate was close to 100% among 15-64 in 2011!
In banking and finance, we have gone from a population that is underbanked to an explosion in the use of digital financial services. There are some 134 million active Mobile money accounts in 2015 out of a total population of over 1 billion. Mobile payment services have grown rapidly.
In addition to banking services, mobile phone impacts all sectors of economic and social life: health, education, agriculture, entrepreneurship… In Senegal or Uganda, for example, farmers can know in real time the prices of products in cities by means of SMS. A commercial advantage enabling them to improve their negotiating arguments when it is known that only traders had this information.
Mobile phones are an important part of the daily life of Africans. More than broadband Internet. The latter is far from reaching the dynamic of mobile telephony. The percentage of subscribers is still low. According to the AfDB, it would reach just 6%, compared to an average of 40% in the rest of the world.
It is likely that the cost of subscription, connection, electricity cuts, lack of infrastructure slow down growth. Even if we admit that today we reach 50 percent of the connected population. And it’s no coincidence that the Facebook boss recently embarked on a journey in Africa starting in Lagos, Nigeria — Africa’s Silicon Valley.
Will Africa be the place to be digital in a few years? The Internet is only 40 years old and it is now difficult to imagine a world without digital technology. The emergence of digital activities and innovations generates entrepreneurial vocations. Young Africans want to be active members of this digital transformation of society, of their society.
There is no shortage of examples: Jumia, Ringier Africa, Afrimarket… or more recently Africa Tech Now whose idea is to take ten innovative African startups to the next Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas.
But there is one question. Will all of Africa benefit from this technological revolution? That is the question.