A colossal disparity exists between fixed and mobile communication penetration rates across Africa. While mobile communications captured 96.4 percent of the subscriber market share in 2013, fixed communications held a mere 3.6 percent. The rationale is that fixed line communication services are offered solely by state-owned entities across African countries with limited funds for infrastructure development and investment. Furthermore, a lack of competition within the Fixed Line Market has resulted in little motivation to improve services and customers, therefore, choose to communicate through mobile devices rather than fixed line modes.

“Mobile penetration, however, is almost saturated in some parts of Africa and mobile network operators are looking for new streams of revenue such as data services,” said Frost & Sullivan Information & Communication Technologies Industry Analyst Naila Govan Vassen. “In particular, the North African region is on the verge of saturation, with an average mobile penetration rate of 93.4 percent. South Africa, Namibia, Ghana, Mali and Gabon are also in a similar situation, with a 100 plus percent mobile penetration rate.”In most cases, markets approaching mobile saturation point are in this position due to the widespread ownership of double subscriber identity module (SIM) cards. High numbers for business-related visitors and tourists has also led to the purchase of SIM cards for short-term use, contributing to mobile saturation in some markets. In fact, touristic appeal is the reason the destination of Seychelles registered a mobile penetration rate of 195.5 percent by the end of 2013.

While robust mobile penetration rates have fuelled the growth of the telecommunications market in Africa, other factors have served to / hamper market development. Both fixed and mobile operators will have to invest huge amounts to develop telecommunication infrastructure across Africa due to scattered and low population densities. Social, economic and political instability as well as governments’ prioritisation of issues such as poverty, low levels of education, and poor access to healthcare over telecommunications too slow down development. The market is also consolidating as operators struggle to overcome strict regulations and intense competition within the overall telecommunications market.

“Urban dwellers will now become a minority target for telecommunications providers as most have been exposed to technological and communication developments,” noted Vassen. To gain market share in the rural areas, participants will have to make communication a commodity.”

With the growing popularity of mobile communications, opportunities to create eGovernment, eEducation and eHealth platforms have also emerged. Already, small and medium enterprises are taking advantage of the proliferation of communication technologies and integrating it in sectors that are crucial for the development of countries across Africa. Such initiatives have given rise to mobile agriculture and mobile banking.


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