Nearly 1 in 10 global mobile subscribers (~420 million of ~4.8 billion subscribers globally) are in sub-Saharan Africa, with an additional 115 million subscribers expected by 2020, according to recently released research from the GSMA. With a CAGR of 6.1% from 2015 to 2020 (50% higher than the global average), the region is expected to grow faster than every other region in the near-term.

Sub-Saharan Africa will be a key engine of subscriber growth for the world’s mobile industry over the next few years as we connect millions of previously unconnected men, women, and young people across the continent.
– Mats Granryd, GSMA Director-General

In terms of countries, Nigeria leads the SSA region with its expected addition of 27 million mobile subscribers by 2020, the third largest projected new subscriber growth globally:

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Top 10 Countries By Projected New Mobile Subscribers

In SSA, the top 10 countries by unique mobile subscribers are:

CountryUnique Subscribers (m)
South Africa37.5
Congo DRC21.0
Ivory Coast12.5

Despite the rapid mobile growth the sub-Saharan region is experiencing, the region lags global averages in several areas:

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  • Unique subscriber penetration in SSA is estimated at 44% and projected to rise to 50% by 2020, compared to 65% (2016) and 73% (2020) globally.
  • 2G is the dominant mobile technology in SSA with 3G and 4G broadband together comprising only 32% of mobile connections and projected to rise to 59% by 2020, compared to 55% (2016) and 73% (2020) globally.
  • The smartphone adoption rate in SSA is just 28% and projected to rise to 55% by 2020, compared to 51% (2016) and 65% (2020) globally.

Global Mobile Statistics
Sub-Saharan Africa Mobile Statistics

Why it matters:

Mobile is a key platform for innovation globally, and this is especially true is sub-Saharan Africa where the vast majority of people in the region access the internet through mobile devices.

For example, Facebook states that 94% of its 170 million African users access the website via mobile, with up to 100% doing so in countries like Nigeria.

With mobile often being the only form of internet connectivity available to consumers in sub-Saharan Africa, it’s clear that the various social & commercial benefits offered by the internet will be driven in the region by mobile.

View the full GSMA report: ‘The Mobile Economy – Sub-Saharan Africa 2017‘.

By Afridigest

Afridigest is a business media brand with an editorial focus on ideas, analysis, & insights for business innovators across Africa and beyond. We help smart readers get smarter about the future of business and innovation in Africa.