In 2020, Covid-19 forced telecom operators to increase their data capacities. But only part of the African population, mostly urban, has benefited. The Alliance for Affordable Internet calls for better access to mobile devices adapted to broadband to improve access for all.
According to the World Association of Telephone Operators (GSMA), the mobile Internet penetration rate was 28% in sub-Saharan Africa in 2020 against a mobile penetration rate of 46%. It justifies this situation by the high cost of the smartphone, the penetration rate of which is 48%.
In its report “The Mobile Economy for Sub-Saharan Africa 2021”, the GSMA explains that in the region, out of the 1,084 million people identified, 303 million (28%) were connected, 206 million were not at all covered by a mobile network (19%) and 575 million people (53%) lived in areas covered by mobile broadband networks, but were not yet using mobile Internet services.
In its 2020 report “From luxury to lifeline: Reducing the cost of mobile devices to reach universal internet access. Web Foundation ”, the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) indicates that the average price of a smartphone in Africa is 62 USD. That is 62.8% of monthly gross national income per capita. Sierra Leone (265 USD), Burundi (52 USD), Niger (60 USD) are some of the countries where the Smartphone is considered expensive by the A4AI. Botswana ($ 26) is one of the most affordable countries.
Since last year, the coronavirus pandemic has increased the need for broadband connectivity and smartphones in Africa. In its Quarterly Global Mobile Phone Tracker, the US firm International Data Corporation (IDC) reports that in the third quarter of 2020 the overall shipments of the mobile phone market in Africa fell 6.0% year-on-year. Shipments of feature phones (basic mobile phones sometimes including multimedia functions) fell 11.2% year-on-year to 29.4 million units, while shipments of smartphones increased by 1. 6% year-on-year, with 22.9 million units.
The GSMA and the A4AI believe that, as it stands, the high price of smartphones which impedes the access of the greatest number to high-speed mobile Internet may hinder their participation in the digital economy. . They propose that the universal service and access funds that focus their efforts on the deployment of broadband infrastructure change their approach to also include the accessibility of mobile devices, including the smartphone.