How are cell phones transforming human connections and transactions in African nations? What types of innovation is wireless technology creating? Where else might this technology be used in developing nations?
Chukwuyere Izuogu, an expert in telecommunications law in Nigeria, says that in terms of innovation on the Nigeria front, opportunities created by mobile phone usage, especially the smart phones, have driven the demand for mobile apps consumption and have encouraged more mobile apps developers to be innovative and creative in service offering such as mobile commerce and mobile entertainment. “Examples are My Cash the winning personal finance managing app recently selected as one of the 90 semi finalists for the Gist Tech I competition. My Cash is available in Nokia’s Ovi store and Blackberry app store,” explains Izuogu. “Paga, a mobile money service provider, has been able to secure additional funding from various international venture capitalists because of the viability of its business model. And Rancard, a mobile content provider through short codes, continues to make inroads outside of Nigeria and recently secured additional funding from Intel Capital and Adlevo Capital Managers, LLC, a private equity fund manager focused on investments into technology-enabled businesses in sub-SaharanAfrica.”
Robert Kasher, a business development expert in digital and mobile content, says that mobile phones are truly transforming Africa. “Some years ago I saw Peter Gabriel talk on the subject at MIDEM, the international music conference, describing meeting a young girl in Kenya and asking about her future. She showed him her cell phone and described it as the great equalizer between nations,” says Kasher. “There are so many areas to explore the impact of mobile devices on financial transactions, practical concerns like farming and fishing, creating an identity for roaming nomads, delivering educational and entertainment content, and so on. Mobile phones are becoming an indispensable item needed by everyone in Africa, no matter how poor. They are creating interesting sub-businesses from roaming generator-based recharging stations to solar and crank driven solutions.”
Shafika Houcine, an expert in mobile marketing and advertising, says that in Africa, the mobile phone market is gradually maturing. “In Senegal, for example, the mobile penetration rate (measured by the number of SIM cards per capita) will soon exceed 80 percent. In Mali, it has already grown more than 70 percent. With overwhelmingly young populations (51 percent under the age of 18), social networks are becoming very popular. Local content, such as TV series in Wolof or Senegalese wrestling matches are the most popular and most likely to circulate on the mobile internet, where there is still enormous growth potential,” she says.
Houcine says that there are many possibilities for mobile services and these will undoubtedly have a major impact on the acceleration of development in African countries, such as telemedicine, remote learning, e-administration and mobile banking as just a few examples of areas in which value chain actors (operators, government, institutions, civil society) are investing massively to meet popular demand. “But the main question remains one of purchasing power for the customers and of their availability to access the Internet at reasonable cost,” says Houcine. “With the development of 3G networks and soon LTE, the arrival of smart phones in the lower end of the market and the elimination of economic impediments for the masses, there is every reason to believe that Africa, and other developing nations in the world, is destined to be resolutely digital and a key player in the market.”
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