At the latest GSMA: Mobile 360 Series – Africa conference, it was revealed that Sub-Saharan Africa had 367 million unique subscribers and 680 million connections (excluding M2M) as of the second quarter of 2015.
The report further revealed that the region’s subscriber base recorded the fastest growth during the first half of this decade, with a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 13% compared to the global CAGR of 6% over the same period. This was partly due to low base effect, with less than a quarter of the population having a mobile subscription in 2010.
Sub-Saharan Africa overtook Latin America in terms of unique subscribers during 2014 to become the third biggest region, behind Asia Pacific and Europe, and now accounts for 10% of the global subscriber base.
The region will record a unique subscriber CAGR of just over 6% in the second half of this decade, with the addition of 135 million subscribers. This will take the regional base to more than half a billion by 2020. By this date, just under half the population will have subscribed to a mobile service, against the global average of almost 60%. The slowing subscriber growth, despite still relatively low mobile penetration, underscores the existence of significant barriers to the take-up of mobile services. These include cost, coverage, and technical literacy and confidence for large swathes of the population, especially in rural areas where more than half of the population lives.
According to the report, another factor limiting subscriber growth is the relatively weak business case for rural network rollout; low ARPU levels from rural consumers make it hard to justify the high costs of network deployment and maintenance in remote communities. Mobile operators and regulators will need to take the necessary steps to reduce these barriers in the coming years to bring the benefits of mobile to the unconnected. Mobile penetration rates in two of the most populous countries in the region – Ethiopia and Nigeria – stand at 23% and 31% respectively. These two countries alone, with a combined population of almost 300 million, will account for 40% of the total number of new subscribers in the region in the period to 2020. Other countries expected to record strong subscriber growth during the same period include Cameroon, Kenya, Mozambique, Tanzania and Uganda.