Sub-Saharan Africa Mobile Data Consumption to Grow 20X by 2019

The mobile internet penetration rate in Sub-Saharan Africa is expected to increase to 37 percent by 2020, with an additional 240 million people across the region becoming mobile internet users over the period.

At the end of 2013, there were almost 150 million individuals using mobile devices to access the internet across the region, over 60 percent of which were doing so via 2G devices.

This is equivalent to an overall mobile internet penetration rate of only 17 percent of the total population, compared to a global average of just over 30 percent.

Consumers using 3G connections accounted for 17 percent of total connections in June 2014, but is forecast to account for more than half of the total by 2020.

Long Term Evolution 4G adoption might account for four percent of total connections by 2020, according to GSMA Intelligence.

Sub-Saharan Africa is also expected to see the strongest growth of any global region in the number of smartphone connections over the next six years, reaching 525 million by 2020, GSMA says.

That also will mean mobile data traffic grows 20 times between 2013 and 2019, about twice as fast as the global rate, GSMA Intelligence predicts.

Vodacom South Africa saw the average monthly data usage on smartphones increase by 81.7 precent to 253 MB per device, and by 25 percent to 743 MB on tablets, for the year ending March 2014.

Orange Senegal reported that first half 2014 that total mobile data traffic had increased by a factor of 2.5 times over the prior year.

To be sure, there are many demand hurdles in markets where daily income can be as low as $2.

So MTN South Africa in September 2014 announced the availability of new bite-sized internet bundles, designed to give consumers quick access to the internet for three months. Some app providers, including Facebook, are providing access to mobile apps with no need to buy a mobile Internet access plan.

Tanzania and Zambia are countries where Internet.org offers a no-incremental charge access to a bundle of Internet apps including Facebook.

To create even more demand In India, Internet.org is sponsoring a competition for new apps aimed at women, students, farmers and migrant workers (four awards total).
One prize in the amount of US$250,000 will be presented to the app, website or service in each category.

In addition, two apps, websites or services designed for each of the four specified population categories will receive a prize in the amount of $25,000 USD (eight awards total).

Low-cost smartphones are another way mobile service providers are trying to remove barriers to mobile Internet adoption, in Asia and Africa.

Tax burdens are another impediment GSMA notes can be a barrier to higher availability and purchasing of mobile Internet services.

A recent study by the GSMA found that across a sample of 19 countries, US$3 out of every US$10 of mobile revenues was transferred to the government in the form of taxes,
regulatory fees or other charges.

Availability of local content, rates of literacy and familiarity with the Internet are other issues, but will be surmounted, as was the earlier challenge of enabling voice communications for everyone.

Revenues grew at a compound annual growth rate of seven percent per year between 2008 and 2013.

Growth rates slow to about 5.6 percent annually to 2020.

The regional 2G subscriber base will continue to increase in absolute terms up to 2016 and will still account for nearly 70 percent of mobile data connections in 2016.

As is the case in many other markets, though, average revenue per account is dropping.
Average revenue per subscriber in Sub-Saharan Africa has been falling sharply over the last five years, declining at a CAGR of minus nine percent per year.

Increasing competition, efforts to improve affordability and the penetration of mobile services into lower income segments are the reasons.

Still, growth is the story, despite all the obstacles.
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