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An Overview of the Use of Mobile Phones in West Africa

Mobile phones are changing the lifestyle of West Africans, becoming a daily essential tool. It is an invention that has more significant effects than the others.

The introduction of mobile phones in West Africa brought about many possibilities. More people can now communicate to persons in remote vicinities in Africa and beyond.

People now have access to any information, connect with loved ones across the globe, study, socialize, among others.

This article will discuss the penetration of mobile phones in West Africa and the impacts, transitions, and prospects of mobile phones in West Africa.

Penetration of Mobile Phones to West Africa 

The recent adoption of mobile phones is on the increase in West Africa, which is the effort of mobile networks.

The networks are moving deep into remote areas in West Africa, establishing and offering affordable networks to the people.

West Africa has an estimated 176 million subscribers as of 2017, a 47% increase against the 28% at the beginning of the decade.

However, despite the increase, many persons in the region still do not with a mobile phone. The penetration level will still augment by 54% in 2025 as many younger ones keep subscribing to mobile networks.

Even though the prevailing broadband technology for West Africa is 3G, the adoption of 4G is on the increase. Mobile phone companies are making available devices that are compatible with the 4G.

Smartphone connections have increased for the past few years, with a 35% increase towards the end of 2017 amounting to 112 million.

Impact of Mobile Phones on the Economy of West Africa

The West Africa economy witnessed an increase of about 7% to its GDP, attributable to the mobile sector’s contribution.

The mobile sector includes companies and businesses in the manufacturing, distribution, and sales of mobile phones, including mobile infrastructural services.

Businesses that depend on mobile phones and networks to survive also witnessed quite an increase in their productivity.

Workers in these businesses have better access to information and other resources fostering efficiency and increased productivity.

Nonetheless, these increases were more significant in underserved areas in West Africa more than they are in developed areas.

Also, as of 2017, over 200,000 persons were employed directly by companies offering sales of mobile phones and mobile services.

The general expectation is that by 2022, the positive impact of mobile phones on the GDP of West Africa will increase by 8%.

According to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), mobile operators are improving the West African regions with many initiates.

Some of these initiatives are the Orange Digital Schools programme in Guinea, the Viamo’s 321 IVR good health and well-being program powered by Airtel in Nigeria, Safe Water Network (SWN) in Ghana, as well as the Vodafone Farmers’ Club in Ghana.

Mobile Phones and Financial Services in West Africa

Apart from mobile phones in communication in West Africa, it is also primarily used in a wide range of financial services.

These transactions include payment of bills, foreign and domestic transfer of funds, among others. MTN, Orange, and Airtel are, however, significant leaders in mobile transfers.

Although all West African countries are on the inclusion list for mobile transfers, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Mali, Ghana, Nigeria, and Cote d’Ivoire are top.

Transitions on the Use of Mobile Phones in West Africa

From 2010 to 2019, there has been a 10% increase in mobile phone users across different countries in West Africa.

While Nigeria is the largest market, other countries like Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, and Cote d’Ivoire also contribute significantly to mobile users.

Of all the 15 West African countries, 3G is the most widely used mobile broadband as of present. Upon the introduction of 4G, it is, however, expected that by 2025 the users will make a massive shift.

The transition to higher broadband like 4G implies that the tariff rate will be lesser. The usage of Smartphone’s and other devices that uses broadband will also increase by 2025.

Smartphone vendors will continue upgrading their mobile phones with the latest versions, bringing about a competitive market that cheaper devices.

Prospects on West African Mobile Phones

Considering the present contributions of mobile phones in Africa, there will be an increase in their adoption by 2024.

Its impact on productivity is high even as younger consumers emerge. The majority of the population adopts mobile phones to fill up the gap that exists among other countries.

According to the 2019 GSMA report, by 2025, the penetration rate of mobile internet users will grow by 40%.

Pew Research Center in 2018 reported that the increase in the penetration and mobile transitioning is higher on West African population with formal education.

How are mobile phones being used in rural Africa?

According to the World Bank and African Development Bank report in 2013, there are over 650 million users of mobile phones in Africa.

A significant percentage of the above figure covers the young Africans and the educated adults in Africa. The figure is increasing considering the many positive impacts of mobile in society.

These populations use their mobile phones to listen to music, watch movies, communicate among peers on social media, make mobile financial transfers, get information, and so on.

Do people in West Africa have phones?

In West Africa, according to GSMA in 2019, over 185 million people who are 18 years and above have phones. The above figure is a 10 million increase a year before, and the number keeps coming up.

What are the primary uses of mobile phones?

Mobile phones have different uses depending on the building and user. However, the general uses of the mobile phone include making calls to loved ones, texting, keeping it handy for emergencies, social networking, business purposes, and lots more.

Final Words

Can you imagine life without mobile phones? Though it is almost a recent development, its impact is noticeable globally, not just in Africa.

It has become an essential tool to keep up with family, do business, learn new skills, perform banking services, and it has allowed us access to even the most remote areas.

The uses of mobile phones are limitless, and it has dramatically affected how the population socializes and communicates.

Credit Line: GSM Association (GSMA), Pew Research Center

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