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The Cost of Mobile Data in Africa Remains a Major Concern

A new report on the cost of mobile data in different markets across the world shows why internet users in most of Africa remain low despite increasing broadband internet coverage. The Worldwide Mobile Pricing 2022 report, which surveyed 233 countries and territories, shows that 5 of the 10 most expensive countries in the world to buy mobile data are in sub-Saharan Africa. In Sao Tome and Principe, 1GB of data costs $29, and the other African countries with the most expensive data packages are Botswana ($16). Togo ($13), Seychelles ($13) and Namibia ($11). High data costs hinder economic growth and job creation.

The cost of mobile data in SA is on the high end and costs far more that the other 10 digitally advanced African countries. Internet is cheapest in Ghana at $0.61, followed by Somalia, Nigeria, Tanzania, Sudan, Eswatini, Kenya, and Mauritius — where 1GB of mobile data costs less than a dollar. Affordable internet could explain the booming digital economies of these countries, hence their attractiveness to venture capitalists and tech investors. The good news is that the cost of mobile data has significantly declined in 2022 compared to 2021 in Malawi ($26 to $2), Chad ($23 to $2), and Equatorial Guinea ($50 to $10) – taking them off the list of countries with the most expensive mobile data.

Over the last 8 years, the number of people connected to the internet in Africa has doubled to 28% — owing to increased broadband internet coverage and smartphone penetration. However, over half a billion (53%) people in regions with mobile broadband networks remain unconnected due in part to the excessive cost of data, according to the 2021 state of mobile internet in Africa report by GSMA. Greater internet penetration is expected as the underseas cables and other investments by big tech companies, led by Google, Microsoft and Meta, bring cheap and fast internet to Africa. Affordable internet and increasing smartphone adoption, which is expected to grow to 75% from 64% last year, means that Africa’s digital economy, currently valued at $115bn will positively affect other sectors of the economy, potentially creating up to 44m jobs.

Meanwhile, according to MTN Group CEO Ralph Mupita operators that cannot keep up with the shifting demands may completely disappear. The CEO of MTN in a recent speech suggested that eventually, just two to three major players will dominate African telecom markets.

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