12 Things You Didn’t Know About How Africans Have Embraced Mobile

By Peter Pedroncelli AFKI Original Published: June 15, 2017, 8:42 am

Africa has embraced mobile like few other regions of the world have, with some of the highest mobile penetration rates and the majority of internet users accessing content online via their mobiles.

Whether one considers online banking, apps for healthcare, connecting through social media or voting for a political party, Africans have fully embraced mobile technology and all of its possibilities.

Mobile phones have now become indispensable, with most people choosing to take their phones rather than their wallets when leaving home if forced to choose between the two.

Here are the 12 things you didn’t know about how Africans have embraced mobile.

Sources: WeAreSocialOpera, Biztechafrica, Extensia, QZ, TheEconomist.

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Opera Software To Invest $100 Million In Africa’s Digital Economy As Smartphone Usage Grows. Photo: MobileZimbabwe

Smartphone penetration growing fast

Currently, there are 293.8 million smartphone users across Africa, as feature phones begin to be phased out by the growing middle class on the continent. Researchers predict that there will be 929.9 million smartphones in Africa by the year 2021, due to consistently high growth in the market.

Most African people have skipped fixed-line technology in favor of mobile. Photo: businessdailyafrica.com

Skipping fixed-line

The proliferation and popularity of mobile has been so great across the continent, that landlines have struggled to get off the ground in Africa, with a small percentage of people choosing to have a fixed-line telephone in favor of mobile.

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Three men using their mobile devices to connect to the internet. Photo: Getty

Mobile dominates internet traffic

With 81 percent of the total African population using a mobile device, the majority of African internet traffic is accessed via mobile devices as opposed to a computer or tablet. The latest figures in Nigeria confirm that around 91 percent of Nigerian internet traffic is accessed via mobile, and many other African countries follow a similar pattern.

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A farmer checks her mobile phone before deciding whether to harvest her crops. Photo: Panos/Piers Benatar/.un.org/africarenewal

Helping farmers to succeed

Many industries in Africa have been positively affected by mobile technology. One example is agriculture, with farmers able to consult apps or sites via their mobile devices to check the weather or decide when to harvest crops.

Mobile money transfer has been a huge success in parts of Africa. Photo: M-Pesa

Kenya is the world’s mobile remittance capital

The concept of mobile money has been around for a while now, but nowhere has it taken off as well as in Kenya, where mobile remittance services have gained great traction. A total of 17 million Kenyans use M-Pesa through its network of 40,000 agents and an estimated 25 percent of Kenya’s gross national product flows through the channel.

Facebook Lite Android app, aimed at smartphone users in emerging markets. (Photo: Facebook)

Social media has become the news

For many Africans who do not have access to radio or television during parts of the day, social media on their mobile phones has become the primary source of news and entertainment, with concerns around fake news on social media amplified by that fact.

poorest access to electricity

African migrants in Djibouti City try to get a signal from neighboring Somalia. Photo: John Stanmeyer/Getty

Somalia stands out as an example

Somalia has become one of the most competitive telecoms markets in Africa, thanks to the rapid growth of mobile in the country, boasting some of the lowest international call rates on the continent.

An electoral officer in a Lagos neighbouhood during the April 2011 elections in Nigeria (Image: un.org)

Mobile used to ensure fair elections

Mobile technology has been used in Africa to ensure democracy. In Nigeria during the 2011 elections, a mobile app called ReVoDa turned eligible voters into informal election observers and, allowed monitoring organizations to draw conclusions about the legitimacy and accuracy of the elections.

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South African students access educational material on their mobile devices. Photo: rekordcenturion

Education delivered via mobile

Cheaper mobile devices combined with the surge in educational app development means that many learners in African countries now access quality educational media outside of the classroom, and this is fast becoming the future of education across the continent.

Victor Moses - Nigeria squad

African sports fans love to bet on their favorite teams and players. Photo: telegraph.co.uk

Sports betting is as easy as dialing a number

Africans love sport, and Africans love accessing the internet via their mobile phones. Those two aspects were destined to coincide and Africans have taken to sports betting through mobile apps and mobi sites, making wagers on the teams and players they love to support.

People in Ghana and Kenya have embraced mobile. Photo: telegraph.co.uk

Data-guzzling Ghanaians

In a study conducted by Opera, it was determined that Ghanaians, Kenyans, Seychellois, and Mauritians are the highest data users on the continent with an average usage of over 160MB/month – fairly high by African standards.

social media

Smartphones are fast replacing feature phones in Africa. Smartphoibtimes.com

Demand for video and content rich apps

Research from Opera software suggests that the increase in smartphone penetration has led to a greater demand and enjoyment of video streaming and content rich websites and applications. Opera revealed that 2016 is the first year that smartphone imports in Africa have outweighed feature phones.

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