phone ownership

Africa: The Impact of Mobile Phones

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Oct 09, 2009
Africa: The Impact of Mobile Phones data sheet 3483 Views
Leonard Waverman, Meloria Meschi, Melvyn Fuss, Mark Williams, Jonathan Samuel, Niraj Shah, Wenona Hadingham, James Goodman
Publication Type: 

Just 20 years after the launch of the world’s first commercial mobile services, there were more mobile than fixed-line users globally, and nearly as many people had a mobile as a television. Vodafone’s Socio-Economic Impact of Mobile (SIM) programme started from the beginning of 2004 to commission research which would help extend the evidence and develop a better understanding of the effects of this extraordinary phenomenon. Mobile communications are experiencing faster growth rates in low-income countries – more than twice as fast as in the high income countries in recent years. Low- and middle-income countries are therefore accounting for a rising share – now more than 20 per cent – of the world mobile market. But there is great variety between countries in mobile phone penetration and use.

Surprisingly, given its extensive poverty, Africa has been the fastest-growing mobile market in the world during the past five years. The first cellular call in Africa was made in Zaire in 1987 (the operator was Telecel). Now there are more than 52 million mobile users in the continent (compared to about 25 million fixed lines).In 19 African countries, mobiles account for at least three quarters of all telephones. Africa as a whole lags far behind richer regions of the world. Nevertheless, the rapid spread of mobile in so many of its countries is a remarkable phenomenon, especially in the context of their huge economic and social challenges.

This report describes and summarises the initial research projects commissioned by Vodafone and carried out in the second half of 2004.The results described here confirm the vital social and economic role already played by mobile telephony in Africa less than a decade after its introduction there. The research documents its impact both at the macro-economic level and at the level of particular communities and businesses. It contributes to the evidence base for the development of both regulatory policies and business strategies in Africa. This opening section sets the context with an overview of the data and of the earlier academic literature on mobile, and information and communication technologies more generally, in developing countries.