African internet trends vary

07 May 2012

CAPE TOWN: Fixed-line connections are still the primary source of internet access in Africa, despite the continent's high rates of mobile adoption.

Analysis of Google data from News 24 indicates that a total of 51% of Africans in five markets measured – Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal and South Africa – have now used the internet at least once. Of this total, 31% went online via a computer, 10% used a mobile, and the remainder (11%) used both devices.

Computer users were found to go online slightly more frequently, with 15% using the service at least once a day, compared to 12% of the mobile web population.

Significant regional trends emerged in terms of platform choice, with 20% of South Africans using the mobile web, and the same number using computers. Mobile web use was much rarer in Nigeria, on 8% compared to computers' 32%, while the gap was widest of all in Senegal, with 2% for the mobile web and 47% for fixed line connections.

Varying levels of development for web infrastructure, as well as a general disparity in the availability of mobile internet services, is a major factor behind these national differences.

But the Google figures also indicate a shared scepticism among many African consumers regarding web services, with common barriers to going online among non-users including lack of knowledge about the services, cited by 42% of respondents, lack of access (41%) and lack of interest or time (37%).

The dominance of fixed-line internet come despite the extremely rapid growth rates marked by mobile in Africa over recent years.

Annual data released by mobile trade body the GSMA forecast that mobile connections will rise from 649m at the end of 2011 to 735m in 2012, against the continent's total population of around 1bn.

However, the market remains overwhelmingly dominated by feature phones rather than web-enabled smartphones. In all, 96% of the African mobile population used pre-paid connections last year.

Looking to the future, GSMA argued that the mobile web would make progress over the years ahead, with the number of 4G connections rising to 2.5m in South Africa and 1.1m in Nigeria by 2015.

Data sourced from News 24/Google/Warc; additional content by Warc staff