Some 900 million people in Africa still unconnected, says the latest report

A new report by the global system for mobile communications titled effective spectrum price in Africa showed governments in Africa have assigned approximately half the amount of mobile spectrum compared with the global average.

The report, unprecedented in scope and in-depth through working spectrum assignment across nearly fifty African countries for the 2010 to 2019 period.

Dawit Astatkie

The mobile market in the Sub-Saharan region is expected to reach several important milestones over the next five years: half a billion mobile subscribers in 2021, 1 billion mobile connections in 2024, and 50% subscriber penetration by 2025.

For governments that want to continue to expand coverage and maximize the benefits from connectivity, making sure there is a more affordable spectrum is the first step. At the end of 2019, 477 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa subscribed to mobile services, accounting for 45 percent of the population. Also, the rollout of mobile technology has driven a fifth of income per capita growth over the last 20 years. These are impressive numbers. But with some 900 million people in Africa still unconnected.

Spectrum licensing decisions, and pricing in particular, play a crucial role in accelerating the adoption of mobile services and providing better networks and services for consumers and businesses. Our new “Effective Spectrum Pricing in Africa” report is unprecedented in scope and depth, tracking spectrum assignments across nearly 50 African countries for the 2010–2019 period.

According to the report, the negative impacts of high spectrum prices on connectivity in Africa are unfortunately clear to see. It is an issue that has to be addressed for the region to take full advantage of the benefits mobile broadband can bring.

The report also states the mobile industry simply cannot be viewed as cash cows anymore. Government interventions to maximize revenue result in negative consequences for citizens in cities as well as rural areas. Instead, governments should release more spectrum in a timely manner. This helps in order operators to expand their network coverage, improve speeds and encourage adoption. The aim of the new report is to give governments and regulators the arguments they need in order to implement policies that help improve mobile capacity and expand connectivity.