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Sub-Saharan Africa Embraces 5G and Smartphone Adoption Soars, GSMA Report Reveals

Sub-Saharan Africa Embraces 5G and Smartphone Adoption Soars, GSMA Report Reveals

  • Sub-Saharan Africa is projected to reach 87% smartphone adoption by 2030, driven by falling prices and digital-native users.
  • 5G subscriptions in the region are estimated to rise to 213 million by 2030, capturing 16% of total subscriptions.
  • The mobile sector is expected to contribute 5% of global GDP by 2030, fostering economic value and innovation.

In an era characterized by technological advancements, the mobile market in Sub-Saharan Africa is on the brink of a significant transformation. According to a recent report titled “The Mobile Economy 2023” released by the Global System Operators and Manufacturers Association (GSMA), the region is expected to witness a surge in smartphone adoption and the rise of 5G technology. These developments are projected to fuel economic growth and contribute to the region’s digital revolution.

By 2030, smartphone adoption is forecasted to soar to 87% in Sub-Saharan Africa, up from 51% in 2022. The report attributes this rapid growth to the declining prices of smartphones and the increasing number of young individuals embracing digital technologies. With the majority of new users being digital natives, smartphones are being utilized for a myriad of activities beyond traditional voice calls and SMS.

The GSMA’s findings indicate that Sub-Saharan Africa, along with Asia-Pacific and Latin America, will experience a notable upswing in smartphone adoption by the end of this year. This growth is propelled by the availability of affordable devices, enabling more people to access the benefits of the digital age.

Furthermore, the report highlights the region’s progress in mobile data consumption. Sub-Saharan Africa is expected to witness a fourfold increase in average monthly mobile data traffic by 2028, reaching 18 gigabytes (GB) per user. This surge will be driven by enhanced mobile broadband coverage, the affordability of smartphones, and the development of mobile gaming and video streaming markets. However, the region’s data consumption still falls below the global average, which is projected to rise to 45 GB per user by 2028.

The GSMA projects that 5G technology will play an increasingly significant role in the region’s mobile landscape. By 2030, 5G subscriptions are estimated to reach 213 million, accounting for 16% of all mobile subscriptions, a substantial increase from a mere 1% in 2022. The report emphasizes that while 4G will remain the primary driver of growth in the Sub-Saharan African mobile market until the end of the decade, the share of 5G subscriptions is expected to steadily rise.

Conversely, the report indicates a sharp decline in 2G and 3G subscriptions. By 2030, 4G is projected to account for approximately 47% of mobile subscriptions in the region, compared to 22% in 2022. In contrast, 3G subscriptions are anticipated to plummet from 55% in 2022 to 35% in 2030. Similarly, 2G subscriptions are expected to rapidly decline as operators migrate their customers to 4G and 5G networks, limiting its share to a mere 2% of total subscriptions by the end of the decade.

On a global scale, the report forecasts that the number of unique mobile subscribers worldwide will increase from 5.4 billion in 2022 to 6.3 billion by 2030. Notably, Sub-Saharan Africa and India are projected to account for nearly half of these new subscribers as more mature markets approach saturation. The rise in subscriptions will be primarily driven by young people and rural populations seeking to harness the benefits of mobile technology.

In a broader context, the GSMA anticipates that the mobile sector will contribute approximately 5% of global GDP by 2030, equivalent to $6 trillion in economic value added. This highlights the significant role that mobile technology and associated services will play in driving economic growth and fostering innovation across various industries.

As Sub-Saharan Africa embraces the smartphone revolution and realizes the potential of 5G technology, the region stands poised to capitalize on the opportunities presented by the digital era. With smartphone adoption on the rise and mobile data consumption growing steadily, the region is well-positioned to benefit from increased connectivity, improved access to services, and enhanced economic development in the years to come.

Business Insider


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