LONDON: Brands and advertisers who want to reach consumers in Africa should consider mobile as their principal channel, as the continent experiences a combination of economic growth, expansion of mobile services and rapid uptake of smartphones.

These are the conclusions of a White Paper published by M&C Saatchi Mobile which seeks to dispel common misperceptions about the state of the African mobile telecoms market and to highlight the opportunities that mobile presents as a mass market channel for reaching and engaging with consumers.

"Contrary to popular thinking, Africa is not an under-developed region – it's the second largest and fastest-growing mobile phone market in the world after China," said James Hilton, Global CEO of M&C Saatchi Mobile.

"The large numbers of African mobile consumers with web-connected smartphones using their device to surf the internet or download apps shows that the assumption that mobile services in Africa are only about SMS and low-end handsets is seriously out of date," he added.

Smartphone penetration already stands at 25% of mobile consumers in Nigeria and the White Paper expected that smartphone sales would account for 15% of the mobile market in Africa in 2014, rising to 40% by 2017.

This development is being driven by several factors. Mobile operators are phasing out feature phones in favour of smartphones in order to upsell data services to consumers. And smartphone prices are falling thanks to intense competition and the entry of cheaper models from Chinese manufacturers.

Running in parallel with the growth of smartphones is the rise of app stores, as African mobile users demand more local content and apps. Nigerian developers, for example, have submitted 429 apps for Blackberry consumers, while Intel is helping to build a community of local developers in Kenya.

Africans are generally receptive to mobile advertising – 69% are comfortable with it –and the White Paper suggested that brands have a chance to "ingrain new activities within African consumers", which could be achieved by exhibiting QR codes on store fronts or offering mobile discounts through apps or SMS marketing campaigns.

Data sourced from M&C Saatchi Mobile; additional content by Warc staff