Africa registers decline in mobile penetration

mobile  whiteafricanSince last year, the growth in mobile penetration in Africa has abruptly decelerated. (Image source: whiteafrica/Flickr)The rate of acquisition of new subscribers in the African mobile telecommunications market has registered a decline, according to reports from research firm AT Kearney

Africa has been attracting significant interest and investments and has had a consisted double digit growth rate for years, the company said in the report released last week.

Significant investments by local companies such as MTN and Vodacom, and global groups such as Vodafone, France Télécom and Bharti Airtel, had mainly resulted in the growth of mobile penetration in the continent, according to the report.

Africa has more than 730mn mobile subscriptions, corresponding to a SIM-card penetration rate of more than 65 per cent, and total revenues of US$40bn, said AT Kearney, adding that adoption of mobile services had been fuelled by increased network coverage and lower prices for services and handsets.

Laurent Viviez, partner and head of the African telecoms at AT Kearney, said, “Since last year, the growth in mobile penetration has abruptly decelerated, with subscriber growth rates now in single digits in most countries.”

According to the AT Kearney report, the industry observers have attributed the reduction to factors like a tougher economic climate in some countries, prices that remain unaffordable for the more modest socio-economic segments, and penetration rates gradually approaching saturation levels.

“While all these facts are certainly relevant, they are in our view partly misleading. Multi-SIM ownership, which stands at 30 per cent to 50 per cent, means that real penetration rates are in reality closer to 35 per cent,” Viviez remarked.

“Also, the abrupt deceleration in subscriber growth in 2011 is to a significant extent explained by the implementation of mandatory subscriber registration in a number of countries.”

The African telecoms market has still offered ample room for growth, Viviez argued.

“We believe that in the next 10 years... Africa will face a digital revolution, enabled by ubiquitous and affordable access to internet services,” he added. 

twn Are you sure that you want to switch to desktop version?