Over the next 5 years, Sub-Saharan Africa will be one of the fastest growing mobile region in the world, adding more than 142 million mobile subscribers.
According to the recently released GSMA Mobile Economy 2020, mobile subscriber penetration in the region will grow from 45% recorded in 2018 to 55% by 2025.
Globally, more than 600 million new subscribers will be added by 2025, with nearly two-thirds coming from Asia Pacific and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Total mobile subscribers in the world is expected to grow from 5.2 billion recorded at the end of 2019 to 5.8 billion in 2025
3G rules but 4G is growing Fast
In 2019, 4G became the dominant mobile technology across the world, accounting for 52% of the total connection. However, in sub-Saharan Africa 3G was the dominant technology having 46% while 4G had just 10%.
According to the report, 4G connections in the region and will rise to 27% by 2025. However, it will take some time to overtake 3G which will also grow to hold about 58% of its mobile connection in the same period.
4G connection is predicted to grow from 52% to peak at just under 60% of global connections by 2023.
Meanwhile, 5G is now live in 24 Markets including Africa. Numerous 5G smartphones are being launched and awareness is on the rise following the battle for the technology last year.
The report forecasts that 5G will account for about 20% of global connections by 2025 but adoption will be low in Africa with Asia and Europe getting the bulk of the penetration.
Data projections show that sub-Saharan African will only grow by 3% (31 million subscribers) well below the global average of 20.1%. The higest amount of connection was attributed to developed Asia with 181 million subscribers accounting for 50% of their mobile population.
Operators will invest about $50 billion in Sub-Sahara Africa
To push the shift to 5G, the report highlights that operators are expected to invest around 80% of the the total $1.1 trillion in mobile technology worldwide between 2020 and 2025.
However, operators in sub-Saharan Africa are expected to spend just 27% of its about $50 billion infrastructural investment on 5G. This is the lowest in the world as China and Europe are investing more than 90% of investments in 5G.
5 billion Internet Subscribers by 2025
Similar to mobile subscribers, Internet subscribers are also growing exponentially. According to the report, Global internet users will hit 5 billion by 2025. This is up 1.2 billion from the 3.8 billion recorded in 2019.
In sub-Saharan Africa, the number of internet subscribers is expected to rise from about 25% to 40% during the same five year period.
As internet subscribers increase, global mobile data usage is expected to grow almost fourfold by 2025. Usage is expected to increase from 7.5 to 28 GB per subscriber per month.
Subscribers in Sub-Saharan African will increase from 0.8 to 6.8 GB per subscriber per month while North America is the highest from 10 to 50 GB per subscriber per month.
The increase in usage is expected to be spurred by increased smartphone adoption as four in five connections globally will be smartphones by 2025. Particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, smartphone connection is expected to nearly double from 45% in 2019 to 67% in 2025.
Mobile contribution to economic growth
In 2019, mobile technologies and services generated 4.7% of GDP across the globe, representing about $4.1 trillion of economic value added. By 2024, mobile contribution is expected to grow by $820 billion to about $4.9 trillion, accounting for 4.9% of GDP.
Further ahead (2024 – 2034), 5G technologies are expected to contribute $2.2 trillion to the global economy as sectors like manufacturing and financial services will benefit greatly from it.
In addition to the GDP, the mobile ecosystem also supported 30 million jobs (directly and indirectly) and made a substantial contribution to the funding of the public sector, with $490 billion raised through general taxation.
Key Trends shaping the Mobile Industry
5G without doubt is one of the biggest trends shaping the mobile industry. In the last year, enterprises have started taking tentative steps into the 5G era with the use of 5G in smart manufacturing among others.
In the part of the consumers, the number of live 5G markets is increasing but there is a question of if they are willing to pay for it. According to the report, awareness does not necessarily translate into an intention to upgrade.
However, polls taken show that early adopters tend to be willing to pay more for 5G and China and South Korea are realising the potential of 5G consumer revenue uplift.
The report also highlighted that although higher data speed is a well-recognised benefit of 5G, more needs to be done to raise awareness of other benefits like IoT.
The forecast for the mobile industry in sub-Saharan Africa looks bright, with Nigeria expected to drive an increase in subscribers in the region. However, operators have struggled to compete with the internet/tech giants in terms of revenue growth in the digital era.
This has sparked telecos pivoting into fintech among other verticals. According GSMA, the contribution of non-telecoms services is growing slowly and will be more pronounced by 2025.
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