Africa’s Cell Sector: Nonetheless Room for Development

Africa’s cell communications market continues to develop at a gradual tempo. And take up exhibits no indicators of slowing. 

Subscription numbers have been up 5% in 2021, following development of seven% the yr earlier than and 6% in 2019.

Based on figures from our GlobalComms Database, on the finish of 2021 the continent was dwelling to 1.22 billion cell subscriptions, up from 1.16 billion 12 months earlier.

Nigeria is by far the most important single market, with 190.6 million subscriptions on the finish of 2021, adopted by South Africa with 110.9 million and Egypt with 101.3 million.

Sizzling Markets

In nation phrases, Africa was dwelling to nearly half of the highest 40 quickest rising cell markets worldwide in 2021. A number of the strongest performers included Niger, the place cell subscription numbers rose 23% to 14.2 million, Ethiopia (up 20% to 58.7 million), Malawi (up 19% to 11.3 million), and Mozambique (up 16% to 17.3 million).

Double Digit Will increase
Africa’s 15 Quickest Rising Cell Markets in 2021

Nation 2021 Development Cell Subs at Finish-2021



14.2 million



58.7 million



11.3 million

South Sudan


3.3 million



7.7 million



17.3 million

Congo, Dem. Rep.


46.9 million



12.7 million



1.9 million

Central African Republic


1.9 million

Burkina Faso


24.7 million



9.7 million



5.5 million



1.3 million



3.7 million

Supply: TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database

The West African nation of Niger affords good prospects for future development, with solely round 56% of the inhabitants subscribing to a mobile service at end-2021, effectively under the regional common.

Demand for cell voice and knowledge is now booming, having beforehand been restricted by an absence of competitors, excessive costs, and low community protection. France’s Orange Group cited the nation’s “unfavorable market setting” as the explanation behind its exit in November 2019.

It’s now served by 4 gamers: Airtel, Zamani Telecom (previously Orange Niger), Moov, and Niger Telecoms. Airtel controls over 47% of all subscriptions.

In the meantime, Ethiopia’s cell sector has exhibited robust development, regardless of nonetheless being one of many world’s few remaining monopolies on the finish of 2021, with state-owned Ethio Telecom the one participant. Safaricom is seeking to break into the market, nevertheless, with a launch imminent as of August 2022. The brand new operator is hoping to be overlaying 25 cities by April 2023.

The Malawi cell market has remained a duopoly since Airtel Malawi began operations as Celtel in October 1999, when it joined Telekom Networks Malawi, which had launched 4 years earlier.

Since 2002 the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority has sought to introduce new competitors to the sector, however not one of the licensed firms proceeded with a industrial launch.

In Mozambique, Vodacom is the dominant participant, with nearly 52% of all subscriptions on the finish of 2021, adopted by Movitel with 29% and TMCEL with simply over 19%.

Future Growth

There’s nonetheless extra room for development regionally, with inhabitants penetration of cell providers in Africa standing at 89% at end-2021, rising from 87% 12 months earlier. To place this in a worldwide context, that was greater than 15 proportion factors behind areas similar to Asia, the Center East, and Latin America.

Wanting forward, cell subscriptions in Africa are set to rise to 1.61 billion by the tip of 2028, a compound annual development fee of 4% for 2021-2028.

Wanting forward, cell subscriptions in Africa are set to rise to 1.61 billion by the tip of 2028, a compound annual development fee of 4% for 2021-2028.

One nation set to drive the longer term take up is Democratic Republic of Congo, the place inhabitants penetration was round 45% on the finish of 2021, roughly half the regional common.

The Congolese market has huge untapped potential for future development, however growth stays hindered by most of the challenges dealing with comparable sub-Saharan states, similar to poor transport/vitality infrastructure, widespread poverty, restricted entry to funding, weak establishments and corruption. These limitations are exacerbated by the DRC’s measurement, difficult terrain and dispersed and numerous inhabitants.

Know-how Break up

4G subscriptions will quickly surpass each 2G and 3G as the preferred platform in Africa. By the tip of 2023 4G is predicted to be being utilized by nearly 470 million individuals on the continent, simply forward of 3G.

4G and 5G Development
Africa Cell Subscriptions by Know-how, 2011–2028

Africa Mobile Subscriptions by Technology 2011-2028Supply: TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database

As 3G utilization goes into decline, 4G will proceed to develop in reputation, with a predicted 730 million 4G subscriptions by end-2028.

5G providers have already been launched in a lot of African markets, in international locations similar to South Africa, Botswana, Togo, and Zimbabwe, plus island nations together with Reunion and Seychelles.

In Might 2022 the Nigerian Communications Fee confirmed that the winners of final December’s 3.5GHz spectrum public sale, MTN Nigeria and Mafab Communications, had every been formally issued with their spectrum licenses. Community rollouts are actually underway.

5G networks are forecast to be serving nearly 350 million subscriptions in Africa by the tip of 2028.


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