Recently, the fourth annual Mobile Africa Report (2012) was recently released by Mobile Monday and Extensia. The report contains an absolute treasure trove of ideas, reflections and quantitative assessments of the continued growth of mobile ownership and use throughout the continent. The research behind the report was led by Dr. Madanmohan Rao, Research Project Director for Mobile Monday.
Instead of focusing on pulling together a laundry list of organizations working in the mobile sphere throughout Africa, the report authors queried select experts (“key informants” for those of you in the research bubble) to provide insights around who the important organizations and thought leaders in mobiles are today, what are the greatest emerging opportunities and where are the greatest challenges.
Across the experts, mPesa was commonly cited as one of the best observed examples of mobile innovation in Africa, and the importance of SMS was referred to repeatedly as a key tool for startups entering the mobile market in Africa today. With SMS technology reaching its 20th birthday this year, it’s amazing that a form of communication that seems so simple can have so much power. Alan Knott-Criag of MXIT lamented, “Many people think that Android is the answer [for application developers], but the biggest opportunity still lies with SMS and J2ME in terms of installed base as well as new monthly sales.”
Mobile penetration in sub-Saharan Africa rests around 60% in 2012, and analysts anticipate growth to 75% penetration by 2016, as noted in Table 5 below.
The number of Africans with access to a mobile is higher than those with access to electricity. These impressive stats are not new to those who work in mHealth or ICT, but are strong reminders of how interconnected our world has become.
Mobile broadband and growth of mobile money platforms were suggested as key opportunities in the mobile sector by multiple experts. Thinking long term (towards sustainability) and making connections across typically siloed groups were cited as recommendations for market growth.
Finally, the last part of the report has a detailed and interesting exploration of mobile markets in various African countries, and suggestions for the mobile industry (rather than application developers) to support inclusive and sustainable growth moving forward.