West Africa’s mobile ecosystem turns up $50b value, boosts employment

West Africa’s mobile ecosystem generated more than $50 billion in economic value in 2018, equivalent to 8.7 per cent of the region’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), according to the Global System Mobile Communications Association (GSMA).

This statistics, released yesterday at the on-going ‘Mobile 360 – West Africa’ event, in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, was contained in the GSMA’s Mobile Economy report.

The study found that rising mobile phone ownership and the ongoing migration to mobile broadband networks and services across the region will see the mobile ecosystem’s economic contribution continue to increase over the coming years, forecast to reach almost $70 billion (9.5 per cent of GDP) by 2023.

Head of Sub-Saharan Africa at the GSMA, Akinwale Goodluck, said: “Today’s report underlines the vital role the mobile ecosystem is playing in contributing to economic growth, social development and job creation across West Africa.

“To harness the power of a new generation of mobile users and mobile networks, we urge governments and policymakers in West Africa to develop regulatory frameworks that encourage innovation and investment in the sector, enabling the provision of mobile-powered digital services to citizens across the region.”

The report revealed that the number of unique mobile subscribers across West Africa reached 185 million at the end of 2018, equivalent to 48 per cent of the region’s population. This number is forecast to rise to 248 million by 2025, 54 per cent of the population.

GSMA noted that future subscriber growth will largely be driven by young consumers owning a mobile phone for the first time, stressing that more than 40 per cent of the region’s population are under 18 years old.

According to the study, 3G will overtake 2G to become the leading mobile technology in West Africa in 2019, supporting about half of the region’s mobile connections.

It disclosed that 4G momentum is also building, saying that 10 new 4G networks have recently launched in West Africa, including the first ever 4G networks in Burkina Faso, Sierra Leone and Togo.

GSMA informed that the local mobile operators are increasing investment in their networks and are expected to spend $8.5 billion (CAPEX) on network infrastructure and services over the next two years (2019/2020).

In terms of job creation, the study claimed that West Africa’s mobile ecosystem directly employs around 200,000 people, supports 800,000 jobs in the informal employment sector, and a further 600,000 jobs across the wider economy.

It noted that mobile is the primary platform for accessing the Internet in West Africa and that at the end of 2018, there were around 100 million mobile Internet users in the region, up almost 20 million year-on-year.

GSMA explained in the report that in terms of GDP contribution, mobile operators contributed 1.8 per cent; related industries 0.5 per cent; indirect contribution was 0.5 per cent, and productivity improvements had 5.9 per cent.

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