The growth of 3G-enabled smartphones and tablets is expected to push data traffic up and by 2020, the region will be the second largest in 3G connections, behind the highly populated Asia-Pacific region.
The report, titled “‘Mobile Economy 2014: Sub-Saharan Africa” was issued earlier this month at the Mobile 360-Africa event in Cape Town.
“Despite the progress to date, there remains a significant proportion of the population in SSA [sub-Saharan Africa] who do not have access to the internet; this lack of internet access, compared to other regions in the world, has the potential to hinder development opportunities and prevent the region from truly engaging in the information age,” said the report.
The study indicated that operators in the region invested more than $45 billion over the last six years to expand coverage and increase network capacity while capital expenditure over the next seven years is forecast to total around $97 billion.
The investments will support operators’ quest to meet rising demand for mobile data services, mobile health, and mobile money services among other services.
Innovation is also projected to be a key driver, especially in machine-to-machine applications. The report expects the region to witness a number of innovative new M2M services in areas as diverse as telematics, smart metering, mobile banking and finance, security solutions and Smart Cities. In June 2014, the total number of M2M connections in sub-Saharan Africa stood at seven million, but is forecast to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 26 per cent per annum, reaching 28 million by 2020
The sub-Saharan Africa region includes 46 countries in total; the six largest markets are Nigeria, South Africa, Ethiopia, Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania, which, according to the report, together account for over half of the region’s unique mobile subscriber base.