Fast growth in West Africa

Fast growth in West Africa

With an average annual growth between 2016-2020 of 6%, West Africa is considered one of the fastest growing markets in the world. According to GSMA’s recent report, at the end of the previous year, mobile penetration in West Africa in terms of subscribers had reached 172 million a percentage of 45%. On the other hand, in terms of mobile subscriptions the number was almost double: 320 million mobile subscriptions, a penetration rate of 92%. But until the end of 2020 analysts expect that the region will add about 45 million new mobile subscribers reaching 220 million and a penetration rate of 54%.

The dynamic of the sub-region reflects also on the transition to mobile broadband. Only in 2016 there were launched 14 live 4G networks, increasing the total number of such networks to 23 in seven countries of West Africa. On the other hand, 3G was present on every country. Analysts expect that mobile broadband connections will nearly triple over the next four years to almost 60% of the total connections base by 2020. At the same time, smartphone adoption will grow at a similar rate, with an additional 139 million smartphone connections. This will be the result of the declining average selling price of smartphones and the growing market for second-hand devices.

Despite the high expectations of quantitative growth, GSMA expects that the sub-region will meet a consolidation in the number of mobile operators due to challenging macroeconomic environment and intense competitive pressure. For example, in some of the countries there are more than five operators, a number which will not be sustainable in the near future.

The report outlines the multiple benefits created by the growing mobile market, Mobile has emerged as the platform of choice for creating, distributing and consuming innovative digital solutions and services across West Africa. As a result, mobile can play a key role for West Africa economies in multiple sectors, such as:

  • Financial Inclusion
  • Agriculture
  • Health
  • Women empowerment
  • Water and sanitation
  • Energy
  • Enhance inclusion
The report of GSMA includes a call to action to the policy makers and governments as well. They should consider that mobile economy makes an important contribution to the economy, driving economic growth and jobs. So if we want from the mobile industry to continue its investment, this is heavily depending in part on the presence of an enabling and predictable regulatory framework. Policymakers and regulators should encourage investment, competition and innovation. As a result, both the mobile sector and the wider digital economy will expand, creating prosperity and jobs. Realising the full transformative potential of mobile will require collaboration between all players: between mobile operators and the broader mobile ecosystem; as well as collaboration among governments, regulators and other industry stakeholders.
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