In 2019, mobile technologies and services generated 9% of GDP in sub-Saharan Africa – 155 billion USD. Raising the level of very broadband penetration at the dawn of the digital economy has the potential to multiply this economic performance.
In 2020, third generation mobile technology represented 52% of mobile networks in sub-Saharan Africa against 36% for 2G and only 12% for 4G. By 2025, the World Association of Telephone Operators (GSMA) indicates that 3G will represent 58% of mobile networks compared to only 28% for 4G. In its GSMA Mobile Economy 2021 report, the Association indicates that the place of 2G in mobile networks will drop to 11% while 5G, which has already appeared on the continent, will represent less than 10% of mobile networks.
According to the GSMA, telecom operators will invest nearly 50 billion USD in their networks by 2025 and 34% of this amount will be for 5G. It is therefore 2G, 3G and 4G that will help bring the number of mobile subscribers to half a billion in 2021 in sub-Saharan Africa. 3G and 4G will support the achievement of one billion mobile connections in 2024 and 50% subscriber penetration by 2025, estimated by the Association in its report The Mobile Economy Sub-Saharan Africa 2020. However, in view of the challenges of the digital transformation accelerated by Covid-19, this performance seems insufficient for the GSMA.
The international organization says that “ the mobile industry in sub-Saharan Africa has largely taken up the challenge of keeping individuals and businesses connected during the pandemic, despite changes in data consumption patterns. However, with nearly 800 million people in the region still not connected to mobile internet, bridging the digital divide has never been more urgent ”.
Currently, sub-Saharan Africa ranks last in the world in terms of the quality of telecom networks. In their study “THE NETWORK READINESS INDEX 2020: Accelerating Digital Transformation in a post-COVID Global Economy”, Portulans Institute and Sterlite Technologies Limited reveal that the continent is the least ready region at all levels, especially in terms of technology.
By 2024, the GSMA estimates that the economic contribution of mobile to the economy of sub-Saharan Africa will reach nearly USD 185 billion. This performance could be much more important at the dawn of the digital economy if investment in very high speed broadband is increased.