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Africa’s top mobile subscription hotspots

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In November 2012, a GSM Association report revealed Sub-Saharan Africa’s status as the fastest growing mobile market globally, with an annual growth of 44% since 2000. The region was reported to have established a leadership position in terms of mobile growth, internet and money transfer.

An overview of countries across Africa with high numbers of mobile subscriptions. (Image source: mobile phones via

Towards the end of the year in 2012, global analysts firm Informa Telecoms & Media was quoted as predicting that the number of mobile subscribers in Africa would reach one billion by 2015.

There is a growing need for connectivity and the carefully regulated issuing of spectrum to support broadband and help drive mobile money services, LTE rollout and the like.

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has documented the amount of mobile-cellular telephone subscriptions within numerous countries across the continent.

The organisation says that there are 6.8 billion mobile-cellular subscriptions. This year there are virtually as many mobile-cellular subscriptions as people in the world. Mobile-cellular penetration rates stands at 96% globally and 89% in developing countries.

We have listed the continent’s top ten countries with the highest amount of mobile subscriptions as recorded in 2012.

Although our ranking system is based primarily on these figures, we also take note of the level of ICT and mobile market activity within these regions and the extent to which their respective markets have been established.

Some regions, including South Sudan, are newly formed markets and this needs to be taken into account when reflecting on figures.

1. Nigeria                                      112 777 785

The country’s mobile industry is being intensely regulated by the NCC (Nigeria Communication Commission) and there have been numerous media reports detailing the regulatory body’s stance on issues like SIM registration and its management of what it alleges to be poor quality of service by mobile operators in the country.

2. Egypt                                          96 798 801

Egypt has a high mobile subscription rate, contributing towards Africa’s overall standing as one of the fastest growing mobile markets globally.  Social networking and mobile technology has been identified as contributing factors towards the ongoing communication of socio-economic and political developments within the country.

3. South Africa                              68 394 000

In 2013, the South African market has seen a rise in activitiy amongst mobile operators to attract and retain consumer support – more specifically in terms of affordable pricing for mobile services. Telkom Mobile is the latest service provider to launch an offering to bring in more consumers.

4. Morocco                                     39 016 336

In June this year Morocco announced that the National Telecommunications Regulatory Agency (ANRT) will open bids for 4G mobile licenses in the country to provide the nation with the fastest mobile speeds available.

5. Algeria                                        37 692 000

In the first quarter of 2013, Algerie Telecom announced the launch of an SMS service through Gmail – a move which, at the time, was expected to spur interest in the country’s telecommunication sector.

6. Kenya                                          30 731 754

The country has continued to entrench is reputation for the growth of the mobile money market (having introduced and established both M-Pesa and Ushahidi), with companies like Essar Telecom and Western Union taking a proactive stance to capitalise on opportunity.

7. Sudan                                          27 658 595

There is not a great deal of information about Sudan’s mobile sector – arguably the result of political-economic and social difficulty within the region. However, it is likely that mobility will be very close to any economic development strategies going forward.

8. Ghana                                          25 618 427

In addition to the rollout of what was reported to be “the first commercial deployment of a 4G LTE network in Ghana”, the country has been described by the International Monetary Fund as one of the fastest growing economies in the world. In February of 2013 the number of mobile phone users in Ghana reportedly increased to over 25 million.

9. Ethiopia                                      20 523 889

During the first quarter of 2013, the Ethiopian government approved mobile money in the country. There has been a great deal of interest by mobile operators, including Ethio Telecom and Ericsson, to expand their networks and operational facilities in the country.

10. Cote d’Ivoire                           19 826 837

If the level of interest by mobile operators like Telecom-Orange is anything to go by, Cote d’Ivoire’s technical capacity is attracting more interest globally. In April 2013 Cote d’Ivoire Telecom, Orange Cote d’Ivoire and Orange Cameroon, subsidiaries of France Telecom-Orange, signed an agreement with IHS, a major mobile infrastructure operator in Africa, for the operation of all the subsidiaries’ towers in Cote d’Ivoire and Cameroon which is expected to improve mobile networks in both countries.

* Image via Shutterstock

Chris Tredger, Online Editor

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