Innovation drives mobile use in Africa

22 February 2013

JOHANNESBURG: The readiness of consumers in African markets to do more with their mobile phones than just talk is an important factor in the evolution of the mobile market across the continent, a report has argued.

This willingness to innovate is the key to future growth, argues Media Update, the South African newsletter.

As an example, it points to the 33% increase in South African use of m-commerce for physical purchases and forecasts that, on current trends, such transactions will overtake mobile entertainment content by the end of this year.

"Mobile phones are used less for talking and more today as platforms to support daily living," said Robin Renee Sanders, a former US Ambassador to Nigeria. She added that creative apps and mobile services are improving people's quality of life.

Accessibility is frequently an issue for a continent whose population remains largely rural, and sectors such as mobile healthcare and education are expected to grow. Another example from South Africa is MoMaths, a teaching tool that targets users of a popular instant messaging platform.

As bandwidth costs fall and infrastructure improves across the region, this is a trend that is expected to continue. These developments will also be a factor in increasing penetration of smartphones.

Nigeria recorded some of the fastest growth on the continent, according to Media Update, as mobile traffic grew 68% during 2012. Smartphone penetration, however, remains low at 10%. White box phones account for 30% of the market and advertisers are targeting feature phones.

In South Africa, mobile traffic grew 57% in 2012, while smartphone penetration reached 32%. Media Update suggests that there will be more monetisation opportunities for publishers as demand for content increases.

Kenya registered a 45% increase in mobile traffic during the past year, with smartphone penetration again low at 12%. Despite the widespread use of white box phones, more than 1bn ads are delivered each quarter.

Other growth hotspots noted by Media Update include Tanzania (81%) and Ghana (61%). Egypt is growing more slowly, at 14%, but smartphone penetration there is much higher, at 33%.

Data sourced from Media Update; additional content by Warc staff