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.


AfricaCom Survey: 5G Investment Should Be Operators' Top Priority

Article Image
Given the size of the contribution the mobile industry makes to the sub-Saharan African economy, it could be argued that the region's businesses and enterprises have more at stake in the future evolution of network technology than anywhere else in the world. It was therefore not surprising that when AfricaCom's annual Insights Survey asked which technologies telcos should be investing their money into over the next year, 5G came out on top with almost 29% of the vote.

This, however, was tempered by a touch of realism about how soon African businesses and consumers would gain access to the benefits of 5G. While just under a third (30%) were confident that the first commercial rollouts of 5G would be seen on the continent in 2020, almost a quarter (23%) believed there would be no launches at all before 2023. A majority (54%) certainly feel 5G will not be widespread across the majority of the continent before that date.

In actual fact, Africa has already seen its first commercial 5G service launch -- a feat claimed by South African data-only mobile network operator Rain in February 2019. It was by most measures a fairly limited launch, comprising a handful of service areas in Johannesburg. But working with Chinese infrastructure giant Huawei, Rain has expressed its ambition to adapt its current 4G/LTE network to allow for rapid rollout in other major cities later this year and into 2020.

Rain's focus is on using 5G to provide fixed wireless access (FWA) Internet services to homes and businesses. Given the fact that fixed broadband penetration is below 2% across large swathes of Africa, FWA is forecast to be a major driver of early 5G adoption.

However, there are not many parts of Africa that can follow the Rain model and build out 5G capabilities on existing 4G/LTE infrastructure, because 4G penetration itself remains low -- accounting for just 7% of mobile connections -- compared to a global average of 44%. While that leaves room for 4G to continue to grow rapidly -- and the 4G subscriber base has been roughly doubling every year -- it is perhaps a surprise that ongoing investment in 4G networks is not viewed as more of a priority within the industry. Just shy of 14% of the survey respondents felt that is where operators should be focusing their investment efforts.

Instead, the participants felt that analytics and big data (27%) and mobile finance platforms (19%) presented better options for telco investment. With traditional banking and financial services beyond the reach of millions of African residents, mobile money services have boomed, offering everything from deposit accounts to insurance to lending.

There were just under 400 million registered mobile money account users in Africa at the end of 2018, a global high and a figure that grew 14% from the previous year. What is interesting about the African mobile money market is that it is still largely text-based and therefore distinct from the smartphone app-based FinTech markets enjoying rapid growth in Asia and elsewhere across the globe.

This is partly to do with low smartphone penetration amongst African consumers, and partly because, up until recently, pre-data 2G networks have continued to dominate mobile service availability -- 3G is only predicted to overtake 2G this year.

With such a large and expanding user base already tuned in to mobile money services, operators would no doubt love to cash in with a broader range of data-based FinTech services.

Read the full results of AfricaCom's 2019 Insights Survey here, including African tech and telecoms investment priorities, opinion on the impact of AI in Africa, the most in-demand tech and telecoms skills for 2020 and much more.

AfricaCom 2019 takes place in Cape Town, South Africa from November 12-14.
AfricaCom 2019 takes place in Cape Town, South Africa from November 12-14.

— Gabriella Jeakins, Content & Communities Lead, Informa Tech.

Innovation hub


Google's Equiano subsea cable lands on SA shores

Google’s Equiano subsea cable, which seeks to connect Europe to Africa via the ocean, has made its final stop landing in Melkbosstrand, Western Cape, South Africa.


Women in Tech: Spotlight on legal tech with Life.file's Sinal Govender

Life.file co-founder, Sinal Govender, talks to Connecting Africa as part of our Women's Month series about her career and how we can encourage more young girls to enter the legal tech field.

More Innovation hub

Africa Tech Perspectives


Women in Tech: Spotlight on inclusivity with Digital Council Africa's Juanita Clark

Digital Council Africa founder and CEO, Juanita Clark, talks to Connecting Africa as part of our Women's Month series about her career and what needs to be done to make the tech industry intentionally inclusive.


Women in Tech: Spotlight on legal tech with Life.file's Sinal Govender

Life.file co-founder, Sinal Govender, talks to Connecting Africa as part of our Women's Month series about her career and how we can encourage more young girls to enter the legal tech field.


Digital inclusion as a catalyst for economic empowerment: Mastercard's Imelda Ngunzu

Mastercard's Imelda Ngunzu talks to Connecting Africa about how digital payment solutions and mobile money are transforming the lives of small business owners, women and marginalized groups in East Africa.

More AfricaCom perspectives

Partner perspectives

5G is lighting up the future of North Africa
By Chris Meng, VP of Huawei Northern Africa Carrier Business Department

The moving target that is telecoms fraud
By Clémentine Fournier, Regional VP Sales, Africa, BICS

How mobile operators in Africa can address signalling threats and secure the network
By Katia Gonzalez, Head of Fraud and Security at BICS

All Partner Perspectives

Latest video

More videos

Guest Perspectives


Omdia View: June 2022

By Omdia Analysts

5G was the major news trend across Africa in June, as Orange became the first operator to launch 5G in Réunion and operators in Senegal accelerated their 5G plans despite spectrum delays.


Omdia View: May 2022

By Omdia Analysts

SpaceX-owned Starlink's plans to launch a satellite broadband service in Africa was a major highlight in May 2022, says Omdia's analysts.

More Guest Perspectives

Upcoming events

Africa Tech Festival
November 7-11, 2022
CTICC, Cape Town
More Upcoming events

Archived webinars

Africa Green ICT: Lighting Up a Sustainable Continent

The ICT industry is the leading industry in the commitment to carbon neutrality, whose focus has shifted from setting ambitious targets to taking initiatives. The push for zero-carbon and for green energy development, it isn't just about CSR – it's also good for sustainable business.

The path to sustainable development requires green energy. Governments are looking at potential policy approaches to make green energy more widely available and affordable. Without sustainable energy, there will be no digital transformation and no chance of making Africa more economically competitive in the post-pandemic era.

Africa Green ICT Webinar 2022 will bring together ICT industry leaders and senior industrial analysts to provide insight, best practices and key learnings on how to achieve zero-carbon targets and practice green development in Africa.

More Webinars

Sponsored video

More videos

Flash poll

All polls

Like us on Facebook

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign Up