Mobile internet users in sub-Saharan Africa have risen by 71 percent to 290 million people in 2022 from 170 million in 2017, according to BusinessDay’s analysis of the latest report by the GSM Association.
According to the report, the population using mobile internet has increased by about 30 million.
“A quarter of the population now uses mobile internet in Sub-Saharan Africa, with an increase of almost 30 million new mobile internet users in 2022. As a result of continuing mobile broadband investments in the region, the number of people not covered by mobile broadband has continued to reduce,” it said.
Experts say mobile internet usage increases due to the widespread adoption of smartphones, improved network infrastructure (such as 4G and 5G), affordable data plans, the availability of mobile-friendly content, the popularity of social media and apps, and overall economic development in various regions. These factors collectively contribute to the growing trend of people accessing the internet on their mobile devices.
However, the report further noted a steady increase in the population of mobile internet users over six years.
“The population of mobile internet users increased by 17 percent in 2017 to 170 million, it also increased in 2018 by 19 percent to 190 million. In 2019, it increased by 20% to 210 million, and by 22% to 230 million in 2020. In 2021, it increased by 23 percent to 260 million and 25 percent to 290 million in 2022,” it showed.
It is pertinent to note that despite these numbers, the region still has the largest gaps in mobile internet coverage and usage. With 490 million users covered but not connected as at 2017, the number has moved to 680 million as of 2022. This also shows an 11% increase over 6 years.
On smartphone usage, the report averred that the end of 2022 saw 17 percent of the population in Sub-Saharan Africa using mobile internet on a smartphone.
This is a move from the 9 percent usage in 2018. However, the percentage of users connected with smartphones remained regular with a 1 percent drop for the first time in 2022.
Statista, a market data and research portal, reveals that only about 10 to 20 percent of the Nigerian population own a smartphone.
BusinessDay reported that the global premium smartphone (wholesale price ≥$600) market’s sales are likely to grow by six percent year-on-year in 2023 to hit a new record.
However, Nigeria ranks eleventh in terms of internet penetration and seventh in terms of mobile phone usage globally with 82 percent of Africa’s telecom subscribers and 29 percent internet consumption.
According to the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC), active mobile subscribers as of August 2023 fell to 220.7 million to 220.8 million July 2022.
The telecommunication data revealed that 2G continues to be the dominant technology in Nigeria’s mobile market with 60.32 percent of the country’s 220.7 million mobile subscriptions on the 2G network as of August 2023 compared to 58.36 percent in May 2023.
This increase comes as a result of the economic downturn, which has left many individuals and families struggling to afford high-speed internet plans and modern smartphones.
“During times of economic uncertainty, we typically see a shift in consumer behaviour as people look for ways to tighten their budgets,” said Sarah Johnson, a telecommunications industry analyst.
“The shift towards 2G services and devices is a clear example of this trend. Consumers are prioritising basic communication needs over data-hungry applications,” she added.