28th Apr 2015
It is generally known that mobile is poised for growth in Africa, but the extent of this growth in the coming years might not be fully understood. Socio-cultural conditions have spurred the recent growth of mobile. To put it into context, while only a 16% share of sub-Saharan Africa has access to paved roads, nearly two-thirds of households in 23 countries in this region had at least one mobile phone in 2013. Africa is currently home to a vast 1.1 billion people, and is now officially the second most connected region behind Asia/Pacific.
Why is mobile bigger than wired broadband? Access is the keyword. Extreme conditions across vast and remote distances have kept broadband infrastructure from developing as it has in other areas of the world. This is a clear indicator that mobile is here [in Africa] to stay.
Innovation takes on a new meaning in Africa, or perhaps it merely reclaims the term’s originally intended meaning. While more developed markets might view innovation as rethinking areas such as product design or user experience, Africa defines innovation as a means to solve real problems in a practical manner; innovative solutions are birthed out of necessity.
For example, the ability to facilitate transactions remotely (via mobile POS software) was recently popularised in developed markets by companies such as Square and PayPal, but this concept has been widely used since 2007 in Africa through the M-PESA mobile payment system. A staggering £7.21 billion is handled annually across Africa using this simple solution, from paying bills, to buying groceries – all via simple SMS.
Social, health, and educational challenges that historically slow developing markets in their pursuit of prosperity are now being addressed through the power of mobile. Health has proven particularly challenging as many emerging countries continue to struggle with providing basic healthcare to their citizens. In this area, affordable mobile technology is being utilised to address many illnesses that are difficult to diagnose and treat without access to medical facilities. Innovative technology includes mobile applications that diagnose Malaria and reduce the need for costly sonogram equipment.
Agriculture has also been a significant area of impact. A perfect example of this is iCow; a simple application that provides Kenyan farmers with practical knowledge to help improve their dairy operations. The dominating 463 million dollar dairy business in Kenya suggests that there is much money to be made, and this simple application can help locals rise out of poverty. The practical information-via-text model has spread to farmers in Ghana and Uganda, to ensure they price their products effectively.
Whether farmers are retrieving local market prices for their produce to arm themselves against profiteering middlemen, or medical professionals and patients accessing medical monitoring and data services, mobile is paving a transformative path of success across Africa; the important question now is how marketers will respond to this growing opportunity.
By Alexander Knight
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