Mobile phone penetration is skyrocketing throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. As mobile phone technology becomes more widespread and less expensive, more sub-Saharan African citizens will have access to technology that was previously inaccessible.
According to GSMA’s Mobile Economy Report Series 84% of the population (1 billion people) will have access to a SIM connection by 2025, a 3.7% increase from 2017. This increased penetration is estimated to increase the Sub-Saharan African economy by as much as $150 billion.
Unsurprisingly, countries with higher concentrations of mobile phone usage and mobile phone access have more successful economies. Without mobile phones and broadband access, rural nations lack the resources necessary to expand their GDP. Mobile technology, particularly in the past decade, is essential to keep up with international trade and pioneer new innovations.
A 2017 Pew Research Center study, found that approximately 91% of South African adults own mobile phones, with 51% of adults owning smartphones and the remaining 40% percent owning standard cellphones. Ghana has an 80% ownership rate, and Senegal follows closely behind with a 79% ownership rate, with 34% of adults owning a smartphone and 46% of adults owning a standard smartphone. Nigeria and Kenya also had an 80% ownership rate, while in Tanzania 75% of adults reported owning a mobile phone.
The study does find that those with lower education rates are less likely to own mobile phones, and much less likely to own smartphones, highlighting the ongoing importance of basic phones in sub-Saharan Africa.
Another GSMA report from 2019 looks at West Africa specifically, finding that across the region there is an 86% SIM connection penetration rate (the total number of SIM card connections in a country or region, as a percentage of the total population of that country/region), and that mobile internet has a 26% penetration rate. Smartphone usage and mobile internet penetration is expected to grow even more quickly than overall mobile usage in the next few years, and it is predicted that by 2025 mobile internet will have a 40% penetration rate in West Africa.