Mobile phones are transforming Africa | The Economist

Messaging Apps 2017-01-11


A decade ago there were only 129m mobile-phone subscriptions in the whole of Africa, though even that was already ten times more than the number of fixed-line phones. But since then the number of active subscriptions has jumped to almost 1bn. At first blush that would suggest that just about every African (there are 1.2bn of them, with north Africa included) now has a phone. In fact, a large number of Africans have are consummate arbitrageurs of tariffs, switching SIM cards in and out of their phones depending on whom they are calling. Dig a little deeper into the data and it turns out that fewer than half of Africans have phones. Those who do tend to live in cities and are richer and better educated than the half who do not. The latter risk being left even further behind. This divide is even more extreme when it comes to gaining access to the internet. Although mobile phones have revolutionised the way Africans get online—most have jumped to cyberspace directly on their phones rather than on computers connected through fixed lines—many are still not connected to the world. The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) reckons that three-quarters of Africans do not use the internet, compared with just 21% of Europeans (see map).


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Date tagged:

01/11/2017, 10:20

Date published:

01/10/2017, 05:41