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City Profiles

Snapshot of mobile operations in 8 Sub-Saharan African markets

May 20, 2014  »  Business & Mobile2 Comments

At first glance, press releases touting new market research reports are not be the most engaging documents around. Much of the release consists of a table of contents and there is always a call to action to purchase the full (expensive) report. However, most announcements of a new telecoms market report also come with an executive summary, key summary, and brief rundown of the domestic telecommunications situation. All for free.

These releases, brief as they are, give a useful snapshot of current mobile access within a particular country. They also provide a near-term outlook for domestic telecoms markets. In particular, we’ve come across 8 such publications in the past week that are worth summarizing as they cover many under-represented Sub-Saharan African nations.


  • Submarine cable systems (there are 3 of them) have lowered the cost of international bandwidth
  • Benin Telecoms has a fixed-line monopoly
  • Mobile competition is strong with 5 main players who have helped push mobile penetration above 90%
  • 3G licenses were first awarded in 2012
  • Source: BuddeComm


  • GDP growth is stable though low economic output and a lack of ICT infrastructure worries investors
  • The World Bank is funding a fibre backbone network that will connect with international bandwidth
  • Two mobile operators offer 3G services
  • Mobile penetration is rapidly growing but stands at 30% which is half of the regional average
  • Source: BuddeComm


  • There are only two mobile operators (MTN and Orange) with Viettel to launch services later in 2014
  • 3G will reportedly launch by the end of 2014 though 4G/LTE will exist from a wireless ISP
  • Average revenue per user (ARPU) continues to decline as more people are able to afford mobile services
  • Camtel’s monopoly of the SAT-3 international cable has led to high fixed broadband costs
  • Source: BuddeComm

Dem. Rep. of Congo

  • Fixed infrastructure is the least developed in the region due to decades of war
  • Loose government regulation of the telecoms sector limits successful projects
  • Five major mobile operators provide service (many offer 3G)
  • The WACS submarine fibre cable launched in 2013 and a national fibre backbone is nearly completed
  • 4G LTE service will launch by the end of 2014
  • Source: BuddeComm


  • 100% mobile penetration was exceeded in 2008 due to multi-SIM ownership
  • ARPU is higher than average for the region
  • 3G service was recently launched with 4G on the way
  • Two undersea fibre cables now reach Gabon and should bring down fixed costs
  • Source: BuddeComm


  • Currency devaluation amid weak GDP has prevented telcos from upgrading their networks
  • A consumer internet tax, added in mid-2013, only added another obstacle to mobile adoption which is low at 33%
  • Airtel and TMN maintain a duopoly of the mobile market with two fixed-line operators also in the market using fixed-wireless technology
  • 15 licensed ISPs provide internet access but bandwidth is expensive and limited
  • Access to submarine fibre cables is provided though neighboring countries
  • Source: BuddeComm


  • SIM registration caused nearly 2 million subscriptions (23% of the total) to disconnect, thus bringing mobile penetration to 25% in 2013
  • Voice continues to be the main source of telecoms revenue
  • Mobile data revenue was estimated at $7 million for 2013 and is much lower than other West African markets though CAGR of 28% is expected for the next few years
  • Source: WhaTech


  • Togo’s Ministry of Communication is taking efforts to encourage telecoms competition (there are currently only two mobile operators)
  • Mobile money services launched fairly recently but have become exceedingly popular
  • Opportunities exist for operators to invest in underserved rural areas
  • Source: WhaTech
  • Tim

    consumer internet tax! Come on Malawi – look to the future.

  • Seriously. This one is especially tough since they removed the tax in 2012 and re-introduced it in 2013. Countries who have these taxes may see a short term revenue benefit but the long term results are very damaging.