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The Impact of Mobile Phones in Africa.

10 March 2005
The social and economic impact of mobile phones in Africa are very clear, claims a recent report that surveyed a selected number of African countries.

Barely a decade ago, few policy analysts, if any, predicted that Africa will the continent to beat in the uptake of mobile communications. A quiet revolution took place until early 2000 that many began to notice the fast growth of the mobile technology.

See ATDF Journal and ‘Africa at a glance: Leading countries in the use of ICTs’ for a detailed analysis.

A recent report releases by Vodafone has reveals some insights on the impact of mobile phone in Africa.

Below are the key findings:

 While the ratio of out going voice calls to SMS in the UK is 0.6:1, in South Africa it is 3:1 for pre-pay phones, 13:1 for rural communities surveyed and 17:1 due to the low literacy level.

 In Tanzania, 97 percent of people surveyed said they could access a mobile phone even when mobile penetration is still low.

 In Uganda mobile phone penetration is about four percent yet nearly 80 percent of the population use phones.

 Unlike popular belief, Gender, age, education, income or the absence of electricity do not seem to constitute barriers to access.

 85 percent of people in Tanzania and 79 percent in South Africa said they had greater contact and improved relationships with families and friends as a result of mobile phones, helping to overcome time and financial difficulties of travel.

 Mobile phones are proving important for job search in South Africa, with 24 percent of people saying they had made or received a call about an employment, business or training opportunity.

 A substantial proportion of small businesses use mobile phones as their only means of communication. Over 85 percent of small businesses run by black individuals in South Africa rely soley on a mobile phone for telecommunications. The proportion is highest for black-owned businesses in South Africa and informal sector businesses in Egypt, suggesting mobiles have become an important tool for disadvantaged groups.

 A large majority of small businesses said that mobile phones have resulted in higher profits, higher turnover and increased efficiency. 62 percent of small businesses in South Africa and 59 percent in Egypt said they had increased their profits as a result of mobile phones, in spite of increased call costs.

 Mobiles have a ’social halo’ effect and are being used as a community amenity. Over half of mobile owners in South Africa allow family members to use their handset for free and a third do the same for friends.

 Africa has been the fastest-growing mobile market in the world during the past five years; Nigeria’s mobile market is growing at over 100 percent per year.

 The first cellular call in Africa was made in Zaire in 1987 and in 19 African countries mobiles now account for at least three quarters of all telephones.

 There are now more than 82 million mobile users in Africa.

The full report is available from Vodafone or click here.

African Technology Development Forum -