LONDON -- Rising connectivity is laying the foundations for the digital economy in Africa, but there are challenges to be overcome if the continent is to make the most of the opportunities.
The increase in connectivity in Africa is being driven by mobile broadband, with the number of mobile broadband connections on the continent set to reach 1.08 billion by 2024, representing 78.9 percent of the 1.37 billion mobile connections on the continent, according to new forecasts by Ovum, as presented in Figure 1.
The number of 3G W-CDMA connections in Africa will continue to increase through 2024, in contrast with the global trend for the number of W-CDMA connections to decline. However, the number of mobile 4G LTE connections in Africa will increase at a more rapid rate, rising from 97.5 million at the end of 2019 to 335.6 million at the end of 2024.
Although wireline broadband penetration is low in Africa, Ovum expects the number of FTTx subscriptions on the continent to grow strongly during the coming few years, from 1.28 million at the end of 2019 to 4.07 million at the end of 2024. South Africa will have 1.22 million FTTx subscriptions at the end of 2024, making it the biggest FTTx market on the continent by subscriptions, followed by Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, and Kenya.
Furthermore, Ovum forecasts that mobile revenues in Africa will rise from $54.31 billion in 2019 to $67.12 billion in 2024, with non-SMS mobile data revenues on the continent more than doubling over that period from $14.91 billion in 2019 to $31.42 billion in 2024.
However, despite the undoubted progress, several factors are holding up the advance of connectivity and development of the digital economy in Africa, including high relative costs, poor infrastructure, skills shortages and delays in allocating spectrum.
“There will be more than 1 billion mobile broadband connections on the continent within a few years, and there are good growth prospects in digital services as well as in data connectivity,” said Matthew Reed, practice leader for Africa and the Middle East at Ovum. “But the industry and authorities across Africa need to develop their plans for the digital economy if the continent is to make the most of its potential.”
Meanwhile, the planned liberalization of Ethiopia’s telecoms market through the award of two new telecoms licenses and the sale of a 49 percent stake in state-owned operator Ethio Telecom is generating a lot of interest.
With a population of 108 million, Ethiopia had mobile penetration of less than 39 percent in June 2019, substantially below the average mobile penetration of almost 83 percent for Africa as a whole, according to Ovum research, as presented in Table 1. Mobile broadband penetration in Ethiopia is also below the average for Africa at less than 17 percent of total mobile subscriptions.
Africa Digital Outlook 2020
For further data and analysis about Africa’s digital market see Ovum’s new report, entitled Africa Digital Outlook 2020, which is available for download
Ovum analysts will be participating in the AfricaCom telecoms and technology conference and exhibition that will take place in Cape Town on 12-14 November, organized by Ovum’s parent company, Informa Tech.
Visitors to AfricaCom can find further information about Ovum’s research and consulting services at Ovum’s stand, B20 in Hall 1.
The Ovum team at AfricaCom will take part in the following sessions at the event:
• Clint Wheelock, Chief Research Officer, will be chairing the AI Summit on 12 November from 11:50 to 16:10.
• Evan Kirchheimer, Research Director Enterprise Services, will be chairing AfricaTech on 12 November from 11:00 to 15:00
• Adrian Ho, Practice Leader Enterprise Advanced Digital Services, will be presenting about Enterprise IT trends and investment priorities in AfricaTech at 14:00 to 14:20 on 12 November.
• Matthew Reed, Practice Leader Middle East and Africa (MEA), will be chairing the LeadersIn Africa Summit on 12 November from 14:00 to 16:30 and 5G Africa on 13 November from 12:10 to 15:15.
• Thecla Mbongue, Senior Analyst MEA, will be chairing 5G Africa on 12 November from 11:40 to 17:10 and Connecting Africa on 14 November from 12:30 to 15:50.
• Danson Njue, Senior Analyst MEA, will be chairing Connecting Africa on 13 November from 11:30 to 16:20.
• Mark Oliver, Head of Consulting EMEA, will be moderating the interactive feature in the LeadersIn Africa Summit on 12 November from 14:00 to 16:30.
• Matthew Pougher, Director of Business Development, will be demonstrating Ovum’s research services at the Ovum stand number B20 in Hall 1, and on the Connectivity Stage.
• Grant Watson, Sales Director for Africa, and Terry White, Associate Senior Analyst, will be at the Ovum stand (B20 in Hall 1).