By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha | Editor At Large | December 27, 2013
In the not so distant future, the smartphone’s screen will play a greater role in the trajectory of the continent. Though feature phones largely dominate the market, the continent is increasingly becoming ripe for a disruption. Feature phones contain a fixed set of functions beyond voice calling and text messaging; they may offer Web browsing and e-mail, but they generally cannot download apps from an online marketplace.
Increased connectivity and a drop in the price of smartphones is making it possible to build a content ecosystem on mobile phones that has potential to radically reshape the way African do things from commerce, health, education and – even finding love. Whoever will succeed on the African market has to think of how to deliver a smart ecosystem to complement devices.
While traditional mobile phone giants – think Samsung, Nokia, Blackberry – have a grip on the market – whoever will deliver a mobile specifically designed to address Africa’s unique challenges will emerge the winner.
According to the World Bank, Sub-Saharan Africa is now home to approximately 650 million mobile phone subscribers, a number that surpasses the United States and European Union, and represents an explosion of new communication technologies that are being tailored to the developing world.
Mobile phone adoption on the continent from 2000 to 2010 accelerated at an impressive 30 per cent compound annual growth rate powered by affordable feature phones sold at mass market price points.
While just 16 percent of the continent’s one billion people are online, that picture is changing rapidly. According to International Data Corp (IDC), a tech research group, smartphones account for 18 percent of all mobile phones in Africa.
The continent’s smartphone market is expected to double in the next four years and device manufacturers who dominated the narrative over the past decade such as Nokia are making big bets on the continent’s smartphone future.
Falling wireless data prices, the extension of high-speed networks and a burgeoning middle class are driving a sharp rise in smartphone use.
According to IDC, 52 percent of all smartphones sold on the continent in the second quarter of 2013 were Samsung phones and the company has quickly ascended in a short period of time to become Africa’s smartphone leader.
As mobile broadband infrastructure continues to develop and as the cost of smartphones and other technologies continues to fall, new technologies will have an even greater economic and social impact on the lives of Africans.
A key challenge will be developing applications that improve and simplify the daily lives of Africans. As smartphone penetration grows, more people will increasingly using their mobile devices to manage their lives on a daily basis – anytime, anywhere. The good news is that the marketplace is open (well, not exactly, you’d still need to have the skills and knowledge) and whoever is creative enough to satisfy needs will emerge the winner.
The mobile revolution is taking off. And a lot of work needs to be done to determine what services Africans prefer on their smartphones and that could be via an app, SMS text or mobile browser. In a word, it’s open game. But Africa’s smartphone is coming, and coming fast.
- Samsung Still Dominates African Smartphones Market – IDC (hispanicbusiness.com)
- Samsung to sell ‘half of smartphones in Africa this year’ (telegraph.co.uk)
- Into The Wilds Of Africa With MTN Group (forbes.com)
- African mobile penetration hits 80% (and is growing faster than anywhere else) (venturebeat.com)
- ICT in Africa -Apps made in Africa (hispanicbusiness.com)