Kenya is primed to produce nine million new mobile subscribers in the next five years, a new report showed.
The projection, going by the latest period sector review report by the Communications Authority of Kenya which shows the total has hit 51.03 million mobile subscribers, means the figure will jump to 60 million, placing it among five key markets in the continent set to add nearly of the half of 167 million fresh subscribers forecast in Sub-Sahara Africa (SSA) by 2025.
In total, SSA will have over 600 million unique subscriber base by 2025, representing nearly half of the continent’s population who will have subscribed, GSMA’s Mobile Economy Sub-Saharan Africa 2019 report shows.
Apart from Kenya, other key markets are the populous Nigeria where growth is forecast at 31 million new subscribers, Ethiopia (18 million), the Democratic Republic of Congo (15 million), and Tanzania (10 million). The rest of the market will contribute additional 84 million.
Nigeria and Ethiopia will record the fastest growth rates between now and 2025, at 19 percent and 11 percent respectively. The Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania and Kenya are also posed for impressive growth, the report shows.
By the end of 2018, there were 456 million unique mobile subscribers in Sub-Saharan Africa — an increase of 20 million over the previous year and representing a subscriber penetration rate of 44 percent.
The GSMS report also shows that around 239 million people, equivalent to 23 percent of the population, today access the internet through their mobile phone on a regular basis.
“Across the region, the demographic bulge will result in large numbers of young consumers becoming adults and owning a mobile phone for the first time, the report says.
“This segment of the population will account for the majority of new mobile subscribers and, as ‘digital natives’, will significantly influence mobile usage patterns in the future.”
According to the report, subscribers’ penetration growth will be fairly even among all the regional economic communities at six percent.
Between 2018 to 2025 subscriber penetration in the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) will grow from 48 percent to 54 percent while the Southern African Development Community (SADC) would see a growth from 44 percent to 50 per cent.
The subscriber penetration within the East African Community (EAC) is projected to rise to 48 percent from 42 percent while the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) is anticipated to improve from 40 percent to 46 per cent.
During 2019, 3G will overtake 2G to become the leading mobile technology in SSA, with just over 45 percent of total connections by the end of the year.
3G adoption has doubled over the last two years as a result of network coverage expansion and cheaper devices, the report states, adding that: “The planned KaiOS ‘smart feature phone’ initiative, fronted by some of the region’s leading operators, is set to give impetus to smartphone adoption.”
The number of smartphone connections in the region reached 302 million in 2018. This will rise to nearly 700 million by 2025, an adoption rate of 66 percent.
Sub-Saharan Africa lags other regions in 4G adoption. By the end of 2018, 4G accounted for seven percent of total connections, compared to the global average of 44 percent.
“The high cost of 4G-enabled devices and delays in assigning 4G spectrum to established service providers in some markets have been among the factors holding back 4G uptake,” the report states.
“This is beginning to change though, with new 4G spectrum assignments in several countries over the last 12 months and a marked increase in network deployment.”
Seven Long-term evolution (LTE) networks have been launched in the region including in Ghana and Burkina Faso since the start of 2019, with 4G adoption forecast to overtake 2G’s in 2023 and rise to 23 per cent by 2025.
In five years, mobile operators in Sub-Saharan Africa will invest $60 billion (Sh6 trillion) in their networks — almost a fifth of the expenditure will be on 5G.
In terms of financials, in 2018, mobile technologies and services generated 8.6 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in Sub-Saharan Africa, a contribution that amounted to over $144 billion (Sh14.4 trillion) of economic value added.
The mobile ecosystem also supported almost 3.5 million jobs (directly and indirectly) and made a substantial contribution to the funding of the public sector, with almost $15.6 billion (Sh1.56 trillion) raised through taxation.
By 2023, mobile’s contribution will reach almost $185 billion (Sh18.5 trillion) (9.1 per cent of GDP) as countries increasingly benefit from the improvements in productivity and efficiency brought about by the rising take-up of mobile services.
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 GSMS report also notes that mobile-enabled platforms are increasingly disrupting traditional value chains in different verticals across the region, saying: “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.”
Sub-Saharan Africa, according to the report, remains a hotbed for mobile money services.
By the end of 2018, there were 395.7 million registered mobile money accounts in the region, representing nearly half of total global mobile money accounts. The region is now served by more than 130 live mobile money services, many of them led by mobile operators, and a network of more than 1.4 million active agents.