Mobile internet is now as widely used as fixed line internet in West Africa
Mobile penetration is driving internet usage across West Africa and playing a fundamental role in fuelling economic growth.
Use of the mobile internet has risen dramatically in West Africa, where it is now as widely used as fixed line internet, according to a new study.
Research commissioned by mobile advertising network, Twinpine, has given fresh insight into the unprecedented growth of the African mobile market. The study, which looks at mobile tech usage in West Africa, was carried out in conjunction with Kenya-based iHub Research and analysed mobile usage across Nigeria, Ghana and the Ivory Coast.
Mobile penetration in these three countries has been growing at a phenomenal pace over the past five years. The study found that mobile subscriptions in all three countries have more than doubled between 2007 and 2011, with the combined total now standing at over 130 million.
The report also revealed that in West Africa, mobile internet use has grown significantly in recent years to reach penetration levels almost equal to fixed line use for the first time. For example, in Nigeria fixed internet usage stands at 28% compared to 26% for mobile internet usage. While in Ghana fixed internet subscriptions are at 10% and mobile internet at 9%.
Despite the growth in mobile, total internet usage is still below half of the total population in all countries studied. This is a result of the lack of fixed line internet infrastructure within much of Africa, which continues to hinder internet adoption rates. Mobile internet is changing this trend and bringing internet to the masses. Its exponential growth in West Africa in the last three years alone signals a change in how people connect to and enjoy the internet, the study claimed.
The research shows that mobile internet penetration will continue to grow at pace in the next 12 months, and as such it is clear from the data that mobile internet use is set to surpass fixed within the next year. A key factor for this is the phenomenal uptake of smartphones by young people who will be accessing the internet and using social networks from these devices. This is reflected by this research finding that the most popular website visited on phones across all three countries is Facebook. Elo Umeh, CEO Twinpine and co-chair of the Mobile Marketing Association, West Africa said: 'Poor fixed line infrastructure in Africa has acted as a barrier to internet adoption for the majority of people, and is the reason for limited broadband adoption across the continent. However the exponential growth of the mobile market in Africa is playing a critical role in closing the digital divide by giving the African population widespread access to a rich variety of affordable mobile technologies. As the research shows, mobile internet is set to quickly become the primary method of going online.'
The growth of mobile in Africa shows no signs of slowing any time soon. For example the UN's 2010 World Population Prospects study found that 42.8% of the Nigerian population are under 14. As these users come of age there will be an explosion in mobile usage like no country has seen before. Not only will mobile internet usage increase as a result of this, but it will present local and international brands with a huge new consumer audience to engage with.
Umeh added: 'This research highlights a very important point, that now is the time for international brands and publishers to tap into the African mobile boom to maximise the revenue potential of mobile advertising. Already Nigeria, Ghana and the Ivory Coast are achieving high monthly advertising impressions; Nigeria is especially strong with three billion impressions a month. However, to ensure brands deliver the most impactful campaigns it is critical they do not approach Africa as a single entity; they must develop a rich understanding of each and every one of the continent's 54 nations. Working with the local mobile advertising networks like Twinpine will give them instant access to a wealth of local knowledge from the start, greatly reducing time to market.'