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Mobile phone access in Africa to double in five years

Mobile phone access in Africa to double in five years

CAPE TOWN: Around 80 per cent of sub-Saharan Afri­ca’s 800 million people should have access to mobile telephones by the end of the decade, double the current rate, although government help is needed to reach far-flung areas, industry body group GSMA said on Wednesday.

The growth of mobile data — an even more powerful economic tool than simple vo­i­ce services — also hinges on authorities allocating sufficient spectrum, said Morti­mer Hope, the Africa director of GSMA.

“We expect data to keep growing dramatically, and to facilitate that you need more spectrum to handle that data growth,” he told Reuters on the sidelines of the WEF Africa.

To unleash the full potential of mobile Internet services, he said, governments should also consider cutting taxes on web-enabled handsets to make them more affordable to consumers on the poorest continent.

Currently about 15pc of Africans have access to the Internet via their phones. “It’s very early days for data but we would like it be everywhere you have voice. The extra infrastructure deployment is not as big as you would think.” Mobile phones have been one of the factors behind Africa’s recent gro­w­th spurt, by freeing people from the shackles of the continent’s awful landline infrastructure and allowing them to communicate/transact at minimal financial cost.

Published in Dawn, June 4th, 2015

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