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AfricaMoney | August 20, 2017

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Sub-Saharan Africa bridges the digital divide with smartphones

Sub-Saharan Africa bridges the digital divide with smartphones

Lower prices of smartphones in the market allow people from different social classes to be part of the integrated ecosystem, tech giant Ericsson’s latest consumer insight report adds. (Image: Ericsson Consumer Insight Report) .

Sub-Saharan Africa is one of the world’s fastest growing mobile markets and the smartphone has emerged as the new trendy tool to spread digitalization across the region, says tech giant Ericsson’s latest consumer insight report.
Lower prices of smartphones in the market allow people from different social classes to be part of the integrated ecosystem, the report adds.
South Africa, Nigeria, and Kenya are the leading markets in the region on smartphone ownership, it notes.
When residents of Sub-Saharan Africa use the internet to connect with friends, family, colleagues and society at large, this changes the regional status quo. With the smartphone, people can have access to their e-mail or even social networks anywhere and at any time.
No surprise then that top activities in mobile communication behavior every week are social networking and browsing the Internet, the report adds. Surfing on the Internet is more about communicating and sharing information with friends and for entertainment.
The younger generation, less than 30 years old, is more willing to use smartphones because they are either working full time or still studying and can afford lower range smartphones costing less than $150.
Even with socioeconomic issues plaguing a majority of the African population and keeping them dependent on basic and feature phones, a strong possibility for growth in smart phone in the next 5 years is cannot be ruled out.
Overall, 56 per cent of the Sub-Saharan’s population who are still using basic and feature mobile phones show interest in using smartphones in the future.
With the introduction of a smartphone in the $50 price range expected soon, the prospects for smartphones look particularly bright.
Both smart phone users and basic and feature phone users in the Sub-Saharan Africa use the same mobile services even though the smartphone owners’ usage levels are higher.
On a daily basis, although smartphone users have an internet option, the report notes that they surprisingly use SMSes more often than basic and feature phone owners.
The reason behind it is that using the internet over smartphones is quite expensive because of the steep fees.
Also, some smartphone users might not have knowledge of the apps (such as WhatsApp) that are needed to text over the internet.
For greater data consumption, installation of submarine cables and country/city fiber-optic networks is needed, the report notes.
Through this installation, connections will be reliable and cheaper, allowing growing internet usage, and African people will be able to communicate through video calling, watching live TV shows, and streaming videos from channels such as YouTube.
Moreover, the proliferation of mobile money platforms is providing more and more consumers with basic financial services in Sub-Saharan Africa, so they can be financially active and move to the banked bracket in the region’s economy, the report highlights.
Governments, regulators, municipalities, mobile operators, service providers and society as a whole are responsible for uprooting inequalities in the current communication situation, the report concludes.

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