JOHANNESBURG: Companies seeking to engage African consumers could benefit from heightening their emphasis on digital channels, as the region's online audience continues to expand.

McKinsey, the consultancy, polled 15,000 adults from 19 cities and 12 countries, and found 51% had accessed the internet in the last month, with 25% logging on every day.

"Urban Africans have embraced the internet, driven by the need to connect with friends and family and the increasing affordability of internet-capable phones," the study said. "This embrace of all things internet comes despite low incomes and limited infrastructure."

Currently, a 54% majority of the consumers questioned possess smartphones or other web-enabled phones, a figure peaking at 95% in Kenya.

At present, 16% of respondents go online via a mobile handset on a daily basis, a total reaching 13% for PCs, laptops and tablets. A 4% share of the panel employed both routes.

Kenya was the top-performing country in this area, as 43% of local interviewees utilised the web each day, with Senegal claiming second position on this metric, recording 33%.

More broadly, 21% of respondents dedicated over ten hours a week to the internet, while 21% spent between one and ten hours doing so, and 6% clocked up less than 60 minutes online per seven days.

At the country level, Kenya once again led the charts with 29% of its participants utilising the web for at least ten hours per week. Morocco followed next on 27%.

The most common pastime was social networking, as 57% of people using the mobile internet and 55% of their peers with PCs, laptops and tablets regularly visited sites like Facebook and Twitter.

An additional 39% of those surveyed sent email from their phone, rising to 45% for users of other computing devices. Both audiences registered 38% when it came to watching music videos.

By contrast, ecommerce yielded a 13% uptake for computer users, and just 10% on mobile. Online banking posted 12% among the latter group but just 10% for the former, the study stated.

"Urban Africans across the continent are gaining significant levels of sophistication when it comes to using the Internet, but telecom players could capture a lot more value by helping more of them overcome the real and perceived barriers to going online," McKinsey concluded.

Data sourced from McKinsey; additional content by Warc staff