Africa has more mobile phone users than the U.S. or E.U.
Africa now has more than 650 million mobile phone subscribers. That’s more than either the United States or the European Union. And it’s a market that has seen explosive growth. Since 2000, the mobile phone market has grown 40-fold, from 16.5 million, according to the World Bank.
And Africa trailed only South Asia as the region with the largest average mobile growth rate from 2000-2011.
In its eTransform Africa report, the World Bank also said that, thanks to new cables, Internet bandwidth has grown 20-fold.
“The Internet and mobile phones are transforming the development landscape in Africa, injecting new dynamism in key sectors. The challenge is to scale up these innovations and success stories for greater social and economic impacts across Africa over the next decade,” Jamal Saghir, World Bank Director for Sustainable Development in the Africa Region, said in a statement.
The report highlights how information and communication technology (ICT) are spurring innovation in everything from agriculture to financial services to climate change adaptation. In Malawi, for example, villages are using GPS devices to map and record deforestation in order to prevent it from happening. In Mali, telemedicine is helping rural communities get access to healthcare.
The rise in ICT in Africa has also led to a growing number of tech hubs — from Kenya’s iHub to Senegal’s BantaLabs.
“Africa is rapidly becoming an ICT leader. Innovations that began in Africa – like dual SIM card mobile phones, or using mobile phones for remittance payments – are now spreading across the continent and beyond,” said Tim Kelly, lead ICT policy specialist at the World Bank and an author of the report, in a statement. “The challenge going forward is to ensure that ICT innovations benefit all Africans, including the poor and vulnerable, and those living in remote areas.”