Mobile telephony

Early adopters of technology

Africa can leverage its high mobile telephony penetration and digital adoption to tackle a foundational challenge to improved provision of social protection: enrollment

Mobile telephony

Widescale mobile telephony adoption was a critical trigger to the ongoing technological deepening and internet penetration. Notably, mobile telephony crowded in large-scale private sector investment on the continent. This is in contrast to the legacy fixed line investments, which were predominantly falling under the exclusive remit of the public sector. Unsurprisingly, the profit incentive of the private sector enabled substantive technological fixed capital expenditure and ensured that mobile phone subscriptions rapidly surpassed fixed-line subscriptions. The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) estimates fixed broadband connectivity in Africa at just 0.4 subscriptions per 100 inhabitants, compared to 34 active mobile broadband subscriptions per 100 inhabitants on the continent.

Increased mobile telephony adoption drives the need for enhanced internet accessibility and speed. In 2010, Africa accounted for just over 4% of global internet users. By 2020, Africa’s proportion had nearly doubled to 7%. Africa’s hunger for data connectivity is a compelling and durable investment opportunity. According to Africa Bandwidth Maps, current estimates are for an additional 30% of terrestrial links (fibre-optic links) planned for Africa in the next five years. This would increase the fibre-optic network around Africa from 1 000 000km to 1 300 000km. Much of this capital expenditure is being funded by private capital alongside global development finance institutions.

Investments to increase the availability of infrastructure to support the seismic rise in internet usage in Africa are essential enablers for the burgeoning innovation and tech start-up ecosystem on the continent. According to the Partech Partners Africa Tech Venture Capital Report (2020), global interest in the African tech ecosystem remains strong, even in the context of the worldwide crisis driven by the Covid-19 pandemic. Measured from 2019, the amount and value of equity fundraising to support tech and digital venture capital opportunities has grown progressively.

Funds raised by start-ups in Africa, 2019 – 2022 (30 Sept)