Mobile and digital technology and the application of needs-based research in sub-Saharan Africa

Julia Gichuri
TNS, Johannesburg


This paper examines the attitudes and behaviour of users of digital media in three sub-Saharan countries – South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria, with the aim of understanding user needs. The paper attempts to paint the scene of the current state of digital technology on the continent as well as how people are engaging with digital media and what this means for businesses operating in the technology space or businesses which are using digital media to further their marketing and business objectives. Findings are used to inform implications for marketing and product development, and to highlight how the use of digital media in Africa is tied in with the way people socialise and conduct inter-personal relationships.

1. Introduction

"Sub-Saharan Africa has some of the lowest levels of infrastructure investment in the world. Merely 29 percent of roads are paved, barely a quarter of the population has access to electricity, and there are fewer than three landlines available per 100 people. Yet access to and use of mobile telephony in sub-Saharan Africa has increased dramatically over the past decade. There are ten times as many mobile phones as landlines in sub-Saharan Africa, and 60 percent of the population has mobile phone coverage."