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Sub-Saharan Africa 5G connections to reach 18m by 2025

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Mobile technologies and services are expected to significantly increase in Sub-Saharan Africa, with over 137 million new mobile subscribers forecast to be added in the region by 2025.

An estimated 27% (165 million) of total mobile connections will be made on 4G and 3% (18.4 million) on 5G, by this period.

This is according to the latest “Mobile Economy Sub-Saharan Africa 2020” research report released yesterday by the GSM Association (GSMA) to coincide with the GSMA Thrive Africa virtual event.

It consists of an in-depth study that explores the latest data, forecasts and mobile trends for the region.

According to the report, mobile-enabled platforms and services will increasingly disrupt traditional value chains in Sub-Saharan Africa, as it remains the fastest-growing mobile region globally, with 477 million mobile subscribers at the end of 2019.

The additional 137 million subscribers expected over the next five years will take the total mobile subscriber base to just over 614 million, representing around half the population in the region and a CAGR growth rate of 4.3%.

While spectrum availability will promote strong growth in 4G and 5G connectivity over the next few years, 3G mobile connections will continue to dominate the region, says the GSMA.

The report calculates the strong growth in mobile connectivity across Sub-Saharan Africa will generate around $184 billion in economic value contributed to the region’s GDP by 2024.

“The findings from our Mobile Economy Sub-Saharan Africa report clearly show the importance and value of digital connectivity,” says Akinwale Goodluck, head of Africa, GSMA.

“Realising the full potential of a progressive digital future requires an informed policy debate. Governments and policymakers should implement policies to enhance access to connectivity and drive investment in more resilient digital infrastructure for the future. This is crucial to reactivating the region’s economy post-COVID-19 despite the sizable contribution mobile technologies and services generated in 2019, growing at 9% of regional GDP.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on the digital landscape around the world, and the mobile industry in Sub-Saharan Africa has largely risen to the challenge of keeping individuals and businesses connected during the pandemic, despite changes in data consumption patterns, the report points out.

However, with nearly 800 million people in the region still not connected to the mobile Internet, it has never been more urgent to close the digital divide, it advises.

Mobile money services, infrastructure and mobile-based content/services, as well as the application of mobile big data for social good, are expected to record the highest rise in the next five years, notes the report.

“The 2020s will see strong growth in the number of Africans connected to mobile broadband. As 4G and 5G grow together throughout the decade to come, spectrum preparation can drive cost-efficiency and promote growth,” according to the GSMA.

“Efficient and effective management of spectrum is also key to maximise the opportunities that mobile connectivity can bring to society. Making sure the required spectrum resources are available under the right conditions will lower broadband costs, increase coverage and boost connectivity.”

In 2018, mobile technologies and services supported almost 3.5 million jobs (directly and indirectly) and made a substantial contribution to the funding of the public sector, with almost $15.6 billion raised through taxation, according a previous report.

As countries increasingly benefit from the improvements in productivity and efficiency brought about by the increased take-up of mobile services, this is expected to significantly boost the informal economy, which accounts for a large part of the mobile ecosystem in Sub-Saharan Africa, notes the GMSA.

Nigeria and Ethiopia will record the fastest growth rates of mobile connectivity, between now and 2025, growing at 19% and 11% respectively, it adds.

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