Mobile phone use is growing faster in Africa than anywhere else given a moment's thought. The demand for mobile phones in Africa in the last few years has been more than most people expected and continues to expand. Operators have traditionally target urban areas, but it is the demand from rural and low income areas that have exceeded all expectations.
The use of phones has already become part of African culture. As urban markets become saturated, the next generation of phone users will be rural based, and they will be using mobile phones.
Demand is driven by voice as opposed to data. Social uses such as keeping in touch with family and friends feature strongly. Benefits include a sense of wellbeing, improved income, and reduced risk.
The demand for mobile phones across African is huge and rapidly expanding. The number of subscribers is currently expanding and is forecast to continue over the next few years.
The rapid expansion of markets is clearly linked to liberal regulatory environments, where operators have been given freedom to respond to customer requirements.
Let me say here that the telecom market is characterized up till now with, poor grade of service, poor call completion rate, poor service delivery, charging problems and poor customer service units.
I can conclude from here that phones (especially mobiles) are already part of African culture and are not just for the elite. But what about the future? I acknowledge it is difficult to make predictions - ten years ago it would be difficult to predict the current uptake of mobile phones in Africa.
However, when I consider the almost limitless uses to which these devices could be put, we need to ask whether the poor will be involved and whether they will share in the benefits.