Connecting Africa is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 3099067.

4G/5G

5G in Africa is inevitable, but not imminent – GSMA

Article Image
5G is coming to the African continent, but not anytime soon, according to GSMA Africa Head Akinwale Goodluck, who was speaking during a virtual media event with African journalists.

"5G is inevitable for us in Sub-Saharan Africa, but it is not imminent," he said.

"5G is going to be a big enabler for the economy. 5G will drive efficiency in a lot of complex operations, but for us in Sub-Saharan Africa, we still need to get quite a few things right before we can roll out 5G," Goodluck said.

However, he still believes that 5G will ultimately be "a big game changer" globally and also for those who live in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA).

"I think historically Africa has done pretty well in terms of leapfrogging – we have had the benefit and opportunity of learning from other jurisdictions as a new standard is implemented. I think 5G will be no different," he said.

"One thing that is clear is that our 4G pipes are still relatively empty; the average across the region is still below 10%, in terms of throughput, so there is a lot of work still to be done in terms of filling up the 4G pipes and rolling out the 4G networks. [After that] 5G will come."

According to statistics from GSMA, which represents the interests of around 750 mobile operators worldwide, in 2018 SSA's mobile Internet users only made up 23% of the population. GSMA projects this will rise to 39% in 2025. It also predicts that by 2025, smartphones will make up 66% of all connections in SSA.

Source: GSMA Intelligence
Source: GSMA Intelligence

"The bottom line for us in Sub-Saharan Africa is that by 2025, we will see about 28 million devices connected to a 5G network. That's still probably a small amount of total connections in Sub-Saharan Africa [only 2.7%], but it's a good start," Goodluck explained.

When it comes to 4G adoption as a percentage of total connections, he said there was still a lot of room for growth, with only around 7% average adoption across the region (although some countries like South Africa have adoption levels of over 20%).

"We have the capacity on the ground, we are building ten-lane highways, but we are only riding bicycles on those highways. So there is a lot of work to be done in addressing the challenges and barriers to Internet adoption," Goodluck said.

He highlighted that by the end of 2019, 3G connections had for the first time outstripped 2G. The GSMA believes that by 2023, 4G connections will surpass 2G connections as well, while 5G will begin to join the party slowly from 2020, but by 2025 it will likely only make up about 3% of total connections in SSA.

Source: GSMA Intelligence
Source: GSMA Intelligence

"Interestingly, we see there are more and more 4G deployments across Sub-Saharan Africa and recently we've seen a lot of the governments in Sub-Saharan Africa re-tweaking their broadband plans and actually moving from 2G to 4G [rather than] going from 2G to 3G," he said.

When it comes to 5G, Goodluck said that power remains a significant challenge: "5G is not going to run on generators; you must have real power capability."

"We also have a lot of work to do in terms of sensitization and to help alleviate anxiety around some of the myths and untruths that have been created about 5G recently," he said, alluding to the recent trend of unfounded conspiracy theories that COVID-19 was caused by 5G.

"I think that when 5G first comes to Africa it will be more for the enterprise market as opposed to the retail consumer market," he said.

Ultimately Goodluck thinks that African governments need to first "aggressively drive the rollout and the adoption of 4G."

"As markets become more sophisticated, demand will help government to put in the right policies to support 5G," he said.

GSMA Africa's head, Akinwale Goodluck
GSMA Africa's head, Akinwale Goodluck

— Paula Gilbert, Editor, Connecting Africa

Innovation hub

Story

Hot startup of the month: Pan-African fintech KamaPay

This month's hot startup is pan-African fintech KamaPay, which helps individuals and businesses make cross-border payments on the continent.

Story

Afretec awards $3.3M in grants to African research teams

The African Engineering and Technology Network (Afretec) has awarded grants worth $300,000 each to 11 university research teams across Africa to advance digital technologies.

More Innovation hub

Latest video

More videos

Sponsored video

More videos

Industry announcements

More Industry announcements

Flash poll

All polls

Africa Tech Perspectives

Story

Deep dive into East Africa's tech startup ecosystem

New survey reveals a lack of access to investors, reliance on international VCs and global recession trends as the biggest barriers for East African tech startups to access funds.

Story

Challenges and opportunities for women's tech careers

A new survey reveals that COVID-19, the cost-of-living crisis, skills shortages and a lack of mentorship have negatively affected women's career development over the past two years.

Story

Survey: Opportunities for Women in Tech

Take our new survey for women across Asia, Europe and Africa looking at the biggest challenges and opportunities for women-led enterprises and trends in tech careers for women.

More AfricaCom perspectives

Upcoming events

London Tech Week
June 13-16, 2023
Queen Elizabeth II Centre, Broad Sanctuary, London SW1P 3EE
Cybertech Africa 2023
August 1-2, 2023
Kigali Convention Center, Kigali, Rwanda
Africa Tech Festival, Home of AfricaCom and AfricaTech
November 13-16, 2023
CTICC, Cape Town
More Upcoming events

Guest Perspectives

Story

Omdia View: February 2023

By Omdia Analysts

In February 2023 key events in the Middle East and Africa included a major Internet project for Africa's underserved by Liquid Intelligent Technologies and Microsoft as well as a 5G launch in Tanzania – that and more in this month's Omdia View.

Story

Omdia View: July 2022

By Omdia Analysts

Kenya and Zambia move towards 5G with new spectrum allocations while Tunisie Telecom plans to shut down its 3G network - that and more in this month's Omdia View.

More Guest Perspectives

Partner perspectives

All Partner Perspectives

Like us on Facebook

Newsletter Sign Up


Sign Up