Gallup: Zimbabwe Has Largest Mobile Growth In Sub-Saharan Africa

Written by Dana Sanchez

Nearly two-thirds of homes in 23 sub-Saharan African countries had at least one mobile phone in 2013, but when it comes to growth in device ownership, Zimbabwe is No. 1, according to a Gallup report.

Eighty percent of Zimbabwean homes had mobile devices in 2013 — with 9 percent annual growth since 2008, when 26 percent of homes had mobile.

Sub-Saharan Africa is the fastest-growing mobile technology market and the second-largest market after Asia. The GSMA forecasts the region’s mobile users will reach 346 million by 2017. This growth leapfrogged traditional landline connections. The median percentage of households with landlines in these 23 countries in 2013 is 2 percent– the same as 2008.

But mobile ownership is not equally distributed.

Mobile phones are most common in urban households. In 2013, 80 percent of urban households had at least one mobile phone, compared with 63 percent of rural households. This is a change from six years ago when 63 percent of urban households had at least one mobile and 43 percent of rural households did.

Even the poorest 20 percent of the population report having at least one phone in their household. Growth has been largest among sub-Saharan Africans in the second-lowest income group, increasing 28 percent since 2008.

Mauritania topped Gallup’s list for percentage of households with at least one mobile phone in 2013 (96 percent). Second was Botswana, with 87 percent. Senegal, Ghana and Zmbia ranked third, fourth and fifth with 82 percent, 81 percent and 81 percent. Nigeria ranked No. 7 with 78 percent of households,behind Zimbabwe (No. 6 with 80 percent).

South Africa ranked No. 11 with 70 percent. There are more households with mobile phones in Ivory Coast (76 percent), Uganda (76 percent) and Burkina Faso (73 percent) than in South Africa.

The lowest percentages of households with mobile phones in 2013 were in Madagascar (40 percent) Niger (41 percent), Liberia (51 percent) Congo Kinshasa (52 percent) and Sierra Leone (53 percent).

With mobile phone penetration in 2013 lower in rural areas and lowest among households with low incomes, there is room for growth in sub-Saharan Africa. However, it may be difficult to sustain pace of growth without more substantial investment in infrastructure in the region, Gallup reports.