Feature Article of Saturday, 2 February 2013

Columnist: Tuokuu, Francis Xavier

Increasing mobile phone trends in Africa

By Francis Xavier Tuokuu

I'm a great believer that any tool that enhances communication has profound effects in terms of how people can learn from each other, and how they can achieve the kind of freedoms that they're interested in. -Bill Gates Africa has been identified as a major growth pole of the world with many business opportunities abound (from Senegal to the Horn of Africa, and from Alexandria to Cape Town). Apart from being the most endowed continent in terms of natural resources, some experts have identified Africa as the best destination to do business in recent years.

One thing that has contributed significantly to the above is the growing mobile phone industry on the continent. A decade ago, only few people and areas in Africa had mobile phones, now almost every hamlet and village can boast some mobile phones. In addition, only rich people in society hitherto had mobile phones but this trend has changed with many poor people now using the device. This phenomenal growth prompted the President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, in 2007 to say that "in 10 short years, what was once an object of luxury and privilege, the mobile phone, has become a basic necessity in Africa." Africa is said to be the fastest growing mobile phone market in the world with Nigeria being the leading market, which has about 100 million mobile phones. The BBC in 2011 cited a GSM report as saying that the number of subscribers on the continent has increased by 20% in the past five years. Other countries apart from Nigeria which have seen a large growth in the industry are South Africa, Kenya, Morocco and Egypt. Statistics available indicates that Samsung and Nokia are the leading mobile phone brands in Africa.

The contribution of the mobile phone industry to the socio-economic development of Africa cannot be underestimated. It has and continues to contribute to commerce, education, and agriculture among others. Mobile phones have contributed greatly to commerce in that they help businessmen to transact their businesses timely and conveniently no matter the distance.

Moreover, mobile phones can be used in our educational institutions to aid teaching and learning. Secondary school students can record lessons on their phones and play back later. They can also Google on their phones to access academic information. And last but not least, smart phones can operate as e-readers, allowing the spread of knowledge through the use of e-books.

One can therefore state without mincing words that the increasing growth of the mobile phone industry in Africa is a positive sign of many good things to come. Africa is indeed the future of business opportunities for investors all over the world.

Francis Xavier Tuokuu is a postgraduate student in Corporate Social Responsibility and Energy at Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, UK and a Public Relations Intern at Giglets Limited, Ayrshire (http://www.giglets.net / Twitter @GigletsReads / Facebook.com/Giglets).