By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi
Africa’s mobile phone industry is seeing phenomenal growth despite the ripples of the global economic crisis.
The continent’s mobile phone market has grown up to 25% in 2008, a study conducted by Blycroft Publishing, a UK-based telecommunications publisher with a focus on mobile markets has found.
The report published Thursday September 17, 2009 in London says the mobile phone sector on the continent has seen the activation of 74 million new subscribers.
The report noted that at the end of March 2008 the African mobile market stood at 296 million subscribers.
“During 2008 the market grew by more than 74 million subscribers reaching 370 million mobile subscribers as of the fourth quarter of 2008, representing a remarkable 25% increase in the size of the market,” it said.
Some of the factors that contributed to this growth, the study found, included the launch of 11 new networks in Ghana, Benin, Botswana, Congo Brazzaville, Guinea-Conakry, Kenya, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sudan and Uganda.
In Ghana the newest network, Zain was launched in December 2008 and Orange launched both in Niger and Uganda.
Other factors attributed to the growth are most likely economic growth and proliferation of networks within Africa.
The report also indicated that as of May there were 163 mobile networks live across Africa spanning both GSM and CDMA technologies.
Meanwhile, in Ghana, there is a debate over the exact percentage of the country’s population actually using mobile phones.
While the National Communications Authority (NCA) says it is 55%, which accounts for some 12.1 million of Ghana’s about 22 million population, the figure was recently disputed by an official of Tigo. A GNA report quoted Ms. Lucy Quist, Tigo’s Head of Operations for Africa as saying the current wireless penetration in Ghana is 47%, which puts the figure at 10.34 million of the population.
In an interview however, CEO of Kasapa Telecom, Mr. Bob Palitz told ghanabusinessnews.com that it is difficult to tell the exact number of mobile phone users in Ghana. He said there is a difference between the number of chips that people have bought and the actual number of people who are actively using their mobile phones.
He argues that there are people who have more than one mobile phone chip from different networks and might not necessarily be using all of them.
He told ghanabusinessnews.com that the methodology of counting is problematic. He said, the counting is done every three months and within that three months, it is possible that a customer of one network could leave and connect to another network, and all the networks would count this subscriber. “This leads to duplication,” he said.
In spite of the conflicting figures, there is certainly growth in the mobile phone industry in Africa and for that matter Ghana, and there is evidence that it is driving economies and leading to growth.