Kenya beating African peers in mobile subscription growth

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ELVIS MBOYA   By ELVIS MBOYA
  • Study says country will have 35 million enrolments, 5.5 per cent of the Sub-Sahara Africa subscriber base, by 2025.

By 2025, Kenya is forecast to have 35.1 million unique mobile subscribers from 29.6 million in 2017, equivalent to 5.5 per cent of the Sub-Sahara Africa subscriber base. A unique subscriber is an individual who might have multiple network connections. The feat will be mostly achieved by capitalising on populous yet unexploited rural markets, a fresh mobile economy report shows.

The Mobile Economy 2018 Report strongly recommends focus on rural markets to achieve projected goals in the next seven years.

It states that rural Kenya accounts for about 73 per cent of the population which is projected to rise to 50 million in 2025. This will help raise the country’s current subscription figures to hit 58 per cent from 49 per cent in 2017.

This development implies that Kenya will continue to have a higher mobile adoption rate than the regional average, said Kenechi Okeleke, lead analyst for the report.

“The main growth driving force in Kenya is an enabling environment for mobile money operator-led services, which has allowed operators to innovate and invest in products that increase access to and usage of mobile money services,” said Mr Okeleke.

For East African markets total unique subscribers will rise significantly from 76 million in 2017 to 112.3 million in 2025.

The report notes that East Africa has some of the largest proportions of rural populations in Sub-Sahara Africa, with Burundi slightly edging out Kenya at 87 per cent.

Rwanda will hit 70 per cent in 2025, Tanzania 67 per cent and Uganda 83 per cent. Subscriber penetration will rise from 42 per cent in 2017 to 50 per cent in 2025 in East Africa. b

Further, total mobile connections will increase from 120 million to 174 million, while home connections will have a slight increase from 68 per cent to 70 per cent during same period.

From 2017 to 2025, 2G will decrease from 66 per cent to 11 per cent, 3G will double from 30 per cent to 63 per cent, while 4G will increase significantly from a paltry one per cent to 25 per cent.

However, 5G will record snail pace growth from the current zero to one per cent by 2025.

Smartphone adoption will triple from 22 per cent to 63 per cent within the seven years.

The report forecasts that there will be a whopping 634 million unique mobile subscribers across Sub-Sahara Africa by 2025, equivalent to 52 per cent of the total population, placing Kenya ahead of the pack in the growth.

“The majority of unconnected people in the region live in rural areas and face significant connectivity barriers especially around infrastructure coverage, high cost of mobile devices, and lack of digital skills,” said Mr Okeleke. To increase mobile subscription specifically in East Africa, the report recommends that governments should support mobile operators to extend network infrastructure to remote communities in a cost effective way.

Specifically it says governments should make spectrum available at terms that can attract private capital and provide financial and non-financial incentives for rural rollouts such as the disbursement of universal service funds and tax relief on network equipment.

It also recommends the establishment of a regulatory environment that supports the adoption of innovative connectivity solutions.

On the consumer side, the report urges governments to eliminate sector-specific taxes on devices and mobile services — which has a direct impact on affordability for end users — and work with other stakeholders including mobile operators, the private sector and development agencies to implement programmes and initiatives that improve digital skills.

“Key trends shaping Africa’s stride in mobile money have seen services evolving from predominantly person-to-person transfers and remittances to include more complex financial products such as savings, credit, insurance, bonds and person to government services,” said Mr Okeleke.

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