The African mobile communications market has undergone rapid developments in recent years. Exclusive handsets designed for the market and the increasing popularity of built-in services such as mobile money have led to the increased adoption of mobile technology in Africa. While the conditions vary across different countries and regional economic communities, most signs point to mobile technologies facilitating an increasingly connected continent.
Chinese vendors play a major role
A key characteristic of the African mobile communications market is the popularity of certain vendors, some of which are not sold anywhere else in the world. Chinese manufacturer Transsion consistently ships more phones to Africa than any other vendor, accounting for over 40 percent of all phones shipped during 2022. Chinese smartphone manufacturers have a stronghold in the marketplace, with Oppo and Xiaomi also appearing among the top five most popular vendors. Feature phones, which offer reduced capability compared to smartphones, remain popular for their attractive price tag. Feature phones account for the majority of mobile phones sold in Africa, with vendors shipping 93 million units in 2022, ahead of the 73 million smartphones shipped during the same year.
The MTN Group operates throughout the region
The MTN Group is the largest mobile telecommunications provider in the region, operating across borders as well as in the Middle East. In 2022, MTN Nigeria generated 4.54 billion U.S. dollars of revenue, while MTN South Africa generated 2.98 billion U.S. dollars. Other key areas of operation include Ghana, Uganda, and Côte d’Ivoire, as well as some joint ventures in the Middle East. The MTN Group has more subscribers in Nigeria than any other single country, with over 75.6 million subscribers, ahead of the 52.7 million Iranian subscribers the company services in a joint venture with Irancell.
5G is on the horizon
Over the coming years, mobile phone users in Africa can also expect to see improvements in speed and reliability brought about by improved transmission technology and infrastructure. In 2022, 22 percent of connections used 2G networks, a figure that is expected to drop to just two percent by 2030. Over the same period, 4G connections are expected to increase, while newer 5G technology is forecast to gain a foothold in the market.
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