Africa Can Lead the Way in Mobile
Monday, April 6, 2015
It is a truth universally acknowledged that the future of Africa is mobile. And it does seem that the good news for mobile in Africa keeps on rolling in. This month a bullish MTN Group announced a 20% jump in net profit in 2014 from the previous year, with sales growth in Nigeria and other major markets such as Cameroon and Uganda. The company announced that it would invest R30bn this year to grow its infrastructure in the 23 countries where it operates.
In the same week, global payment processor giants Visa and MasterCard both launched new mobile card services in Africa, eager to get a slice of the continent’s growing mobile payment industry.
Better late than never.
Africans are already more accustomed to paying with their cellphones than many Americans. Kenya’s Equity Bank was the first in the world to offer a completely mobile bank account and the mobile money transfer service M-Pesa has been quietly providing banking services to more than 15-million Kenyans (more than a third of the population) since 2007. It currently serves as conduit for a fifth of the country’s gross domestic product.
In other areas, too, mobile has made the headlines in Africa — from helping to co-ordinate efforts in the fight to contain Ebola, to assisting in the mobilisation of millions of citizens in the Arab Spring uprising. In education, health, entertainment and politics, mobile plays a starring role.
According to some estimates, more than 40% of adults in Africa have a cellphone and the number grows every year. Millions are also converting to smartphones.
Africa’s rapid and unexpected adoption of mobile technology and the speed with which it has built telephony networks have taught the rest of the world much about the continent’s potential.