GSMA tips sub-Saharan Africa mobile phone penetration to double by 2020

The GSM Association (GSMA) predicted that the majority of people in sub-Saharan Africa will have access to mobile phones by 2020, but only if national governments assist in distributing devices to the most remote areas in the region.

Some 80 per cent of sub-Saharan Africa's population of 800 million were tipped to have access to a mobile device by 2020, twice as many as today. However, GSMA Africa director Mortimer Hope said the growth will only be achieved if governments adopt policies that make it easier for consumers to buy web-capable mobile devices, Reuters reported.

Options available to authorities to boost device sales include a reduction in device-related taxes, Hope told the news agency.

Of course, putting devices in the hands of consumers is pointless without compatible networks. Hope said governments in the region must also ensure there is sufficient spectrum available to enable operators to construct mobile internet networks.

In May, Nokia Networks Nigeria country manager Sam Nwosu made a similar point, noting that spectrum allocations in the country are currently fragmented and that more must be done to put LTE-compatible devices in the hands of consumers.

LTE deployments in Africa as a whole are steadily growing. In February, research company Ovum said the number of commercial networks stood at 34, compared to 22 at mid-2014.

The potential of the continent is also not lost on Chinese vendor Huawei. The company's Africa CEO Steven Wu this week said the company expects to double smartphone shipments to South Africa to 2 million units in 2015, Reuters reported in a separate article.

Wu also told the news agency that Huawei is considering upping its investment in other African nations, including Angola, Egypt, Mozambique, and Nigeria.

Analysts forecast that smartphone penetration in South Africa will grow from 79 million units in 2012 to 412 million by 2018, Reuters added.

For more:
- see this Reuters article on sub-Saharan Africa
- view this separate Reuters report on Huawei

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