The Guardian
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‘Mobile adoption contributes $32b to sub-Saharan economy’



. Industry has potential to create 14.9m jobs in five years

THE rapid pace of mobile adoption in Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, Egypt and other sub-Saharan Africa may have delivered about $32 billion in earnings to the region or about 4.4 per cent of GDP in the last 10 years.

   This, according to the GSM Association (GSMA) has improved the economic benefits in the region.

    While urging governments in sub-Saharan Africa to accord priority to the release of frequency spectrum or risk undermining their broadband development aspirations, noted that the region currently accounts for about two-thirds of connections in Africa but the amount of spectrum allocated to mobile services in Africa is among the lowest worldwide.

   Governments in Sub-Saharan Africa risk undermining their broadband and development goals unless more spectrum is made available.

  According to it, underscoring that the release of the Digital Dividend spectrum, which has the ideal characteristics for delivering mobile broadband, particularly to rural populations should be a priority.

   Director General, GSMA, Anne Bouverot said that, “the rapid pace of mobile adoption has delivered an explosion of innovation and huge economic benefits in the region, directly contributing $32 billion to the Sub-Saharan African economy, or 4.4 per cent of GDP. With necessary spectrum allocations and transparent regulation, the mobile industry could also fuel the creation of 14.9 million new jobs in the region between 2015 and 2020.”

   GSMA expects connections to grow by a further 50 per cent, or 250 million connections, over the next five years which requires greater regulatory certainty to foster investment and release of additional harmonised spectrum for mobile.

   GSMA said sub-Saharan Africa recorded some of the highest levels of mobile Internet usage globally.

    In Zimbabwe and Nigeria, mobile accounts for over half of all web traffic at 58.1 per cent and 57.9 per cent respectively, compared to a 10 per cent global average. 3G penetration levels are forecast to reach a quarter of the population in Sub-Saharan Africa by 2017 (from six per cent in 2012) as the use of mobile-specific services develops.

    However, despite the high number of connections, rapid growth and mobile Internet usage, mobile penetration among individuals remains relatively low. Fewer than 250 million people had subscribed to a mobile service in the region, putting unique subscriber penetration at 30 per cent, meaning that more than two-thirds of the population has yet to acquire their first mobile phone.

   “Clearly, there is an important opportunity for the mobile industry to bring connectivity, access to information and services to the people in this region”, GSMA said.

    According to the body, the mobile industry contributes approximately 3.5 million full-time jobs in the region. This has also spurred a wave of technology and content innovation with more than 50 ‘innovation hubs’ created to develop local skills and content in the field of ICT services, including the Limbe Labs in Cameroon, the iHub in Kenya and Hive Colab in Uganda.

    To support this huge increase in innovation, the mobile industry has invested around $16.5 billion over the past five years across the five key countries in the region, mainly directed towards the expansion of network capacity.

    At the same time, given the exponential growth, Sub-Saharan Africa faces a looming ‘capacity and coverage crunch’ in terms of available mobile spectrum and the GSMA is working with operators and governments to address this critical issue.

    GSMA research has found that by releasing the Digital Dividend and 2.6GHz spectrum by 2015, the governments of Sub-Saharan Africa could increase yearly GDP by $82 billion by 2025 and yearly government tax revenues by $18 billion and add up to 27 million jobs by 2025.

    In many Sub-Saharan African countries, mobile broadband is the only possible route to deliver the Internet to citizens and the current spectrum allocations across the region generally lag behind those of other countries.


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