Emeka Ajene
Jul 16, 2017 · 3 min read

This article first appeared on Afridigest, an Africa-focused business media brand. Get smarter about business & innovation across Africa, subscribe to Afridigest.

Nearly 1 in 10 global mobile subscribers (~420 million of ~4.8 billion subscribers globally) are in sub-Saharan Africa, with an additional 115 million subscribers expected by 2020, according to recently released research from the GSMA. With a CAGR of 6.1% from 2015 to 2020 (50% higher than the global average), the region is expected to grow faster than every other region in the near-term.

Sub-Saharan Africa will be a key engine of subscriber growth for the world’s mobile industry over the next few years as we connect millions of previously unconnected men, women, and young people across the continent.
– Mats Granryd, GSMA Director-General

In terms of countries, Nigeria leads the SSA region with its expected addition of 27 million mobile subscribers by 2020, the third largest projected new subscriber growth globally:

In SSA, the top 10 countries by unique mobile subscribers are:

Nigeria, 86.0 million unique subscribers
South Africa, 37.5
Ethiopia, 34.7
Kenya, 28.3
Tanzania, 23.7
Congo, DRC 21.0
Ghana, 18.9
Uganda, 17.0
Mozambique, 13.8
Ivory Coast, 12.5

Despite the rapid mobile growth the sub-Saharan region is experiencing, the region lags global averages in several areas:

  • Unique subscriber penetration in SSA is estimated at 44% and projected to rise to 50% by 2020, compared to 65% (2016) and 73% (2020) globally.
  • 2G is the dominant mobile technology in SSA with 3G and 4G broadband together comprising only 32% of mobile connections and projected to rise to 59% by 2020, compared to 55% (2016) and 73% (2020) globally.
  • The smartphone adoption rate in SSA is just 28% and projected to rise to 55% by 2020, compared to 51% (2016) and 65% (2020) globally.

Why it matters:

Mobile is a key platform for innovation globally, and this is especially true is sub-Saharan Africa where the vast majority of people in the region access the internet through mobile devices.

For example, Facebook states that 94% of its 170 million African users access the website via mobile, with up to 100% doing so in countries like Nigeria.

With mobile often being the only form of internet connectivity available to consumers in sub-Saharan Africa, it’s clear that the various social & commercial benefits offered by the internet will be driven in the region by mobile.

— — — — — —

Emeka Ajene writes on behalf of the the editorial team at Afridigest, a business media brand with an editorial focus on ideas, analysis, & insights for business innovators across Africa and beyond.

For more like this, subscribe to Afridigest.

Emeka Ajene

Written by

tech, innovation, finance, strategy, social impact | africa(/nigeria) focused | exec. editor at http://afridigest.com | @umich jd/mba

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade