Sub-Saharan Africa is a large, diverse region, encompassing 37 countries ranging from South Africa and Nigeria, to Angola, Cameroon, and Mali.
It’s a region where mobile technology is going through a major period of change, according to trade body the GSMA. More than 90 percent of the population were covered by 2G networks at the end of 2017, but more advanced networks are now beginning to take hold.
“Future growth opportunities will increasingly be concentrated in rural and low-ARPU (average revenue per user) markets, as well as younger demographic groups,” the GSMA notes in its most recent report on the region.
“World Bank data indicates that around 40 percent of the population in the region is under the age of 16, a demographic segment that has significantly lower levels of mobile ownership than the population as a whole.”
Other growth considerations include the cost of services for less affluent consumers and the volume of customers, about 50 percent, living in rural environments.
Here’s what you need to know about the current and future mobile landscape in the region.
State of play: 10 key stats about mobile in Africa
- Three-quarters of the population have a SIM connection. That translates to 747 million people.
- However, mobile subscriber penetration is just 44 percent, well behind a global average of 66 percent.
- Despite this, with 444 million mobile subscribers, the region is home to nearly nine percent of all global mobile subscriptions.
- Around a third of mobile users, 250 million, have a smartphone.
- The number of mobile internet subscribers in Sub-Saharan Africa has quadrupled since the start of the decade. For many users it’s the only way they can get online.
- Mobile broadband is currently available to two-thirds of the regional population.
- That means 400 million people in the region cannot access mobile broadband services at present, due to a lack of coverage.
- Six new 4G networks launched in the first half of 2018. There are now 120 such networks in the region. New networks and cheaper smartphones are helping drive the transition to mobile broadband.
- Getting online is expensive. Purchasing a handset and 500MB of data costs an average 10 percent of monthly income.
- At the end of 2017, there were 135 live mobile money services found in 39 countries across the region, with 122 million active accounts.
Looking ahead: 10 predictions for 2025
As well as outlining current market data, the GSMA also set out how it expects the Sub-Saharan mobile ecosystem to evolve.
- By 2025 mobile broadband will account for 87 percent of mobile connections. The current figure for these services is 38 percent.
- 3G will account for 60 percent of all mobile connections by 2025.
- Nearly 300 million new subscribers are expected to access the mobile internet in the next seven years.
- Active SIM connections are predicted to hit one billion in 2025, up from 747 million today.
- Subscriber numbers are expected to account for half the population in 2023, rising to 52 percent in 2025.
- By 2025 it’s anticipated that 634 million people in the region will be mobile subscribers, up from 44 percent and 444 million people in 2017.
- After witnessing aggressive subscriber growth in recent years, the adoption curve will slow to “half the level recorded over the preceding five years”, the report notes.
- However, at a CAGR of 4.8 percent for the period 2017-2022, the regional subscribe base will still be “more than double the global growth rate over the same period”.
- It’s expected that there will be 690 million active smartphones in Sub-Saharan Africa. That’s a growth of 440 million handsets in the next eight years.
- Sub-Saharan Africa will be the last region to see 5G services launch, the GSMA predicts. It expects the first commercial 5G services to be launched in the region by 2021, with 12 million 5G connections, or about 2.6 percent of the total connection base, in 2025.
Unlocking mobile’s potential: three key considerations
Although the picture painted by the GSMA is predominantly a positive one, the Sub-Saharan region will continue to lag behind others on key indices such as smartphone penetration and mobile subscriptions.
Nonetheless, the report highlights how MNO capex, mobile operator and start-up initiatives, as well as the rise of tech hubs in the region, are all playing a role in turning this potential into a reality.
On the issue of reaching rural audiences alone, the report notes: “For operators, revenue from rural sites is around a 10th of that for urban areas, owing to the low purchasing power of most rural dwellers, while backhaul, power and taxes account for up to 60 percent of the cost of providing mobile broadband in rural areas.”
For mobile ambitions in the region to be realized, several critical factors need to continue to be addressed. Here are three of them:
1. Making mobile and mobile internet more affordable
A handset and 500MB of data costs 10 percent of an average monthly income, double the five percent threshold recommended by the UN Broadband Commission. Addressing this issue will therefore be essential for driving future growth.
Data and subscription packages that cater for less cash-rich consumers are one part of the equation. But, alongside that shift, making handsets cheaper for consumers will also help.
The cost of purchasing smartphones has dropped considerably in the past five years. As the report observes: “The average selling price of smartphones has fallen below $120 in most markets, with sub-$100 smartphones, mostly from Asian manufacturers such as Gionee and Tecno, now widely available across the region.”
Government policies can also play a role in this area, driving digital inclusion and growing the digital economy in the process. In Ghana, proposals to remove customs duties of 20 percent on handsets and smartphones have been predicted to contribute to an additional three million handset purchases, with nearly one million of these being 3G-enabled devices.
2. Creating compelling reasons to get connected
Tech companies are seeking to tap into developing markets like Sub-Saharan Africa by offering ‘skinnier’ versions of their apps. Using minimal data, products like Facebook Lite, Facebook Messenger Lite, Twitter Lite, Google Go and others, are quicker and cheaper to use than their full-data equivalents.
Last year Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai announced plans to train 100,000 software developers in Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa, as well as creating in-person and online training packages designed to help 10 million people across the continent become more employable by developing their online skills.
SEE: IT pro’s guide to the evolution and impact of 5G technology (free PDF)
Elsewhere, opportunities abound for governments in the region to offer more mobile-services — including mobile payment services, as well as products and content in different languages.
The total value of mobile money transactions in Sub-Saharan Africa last year was worth $19.9bn, as individual transactions grew by 17.9 per cent to 1.2 billion year over year.
3. Incentivizing investment and expansion
Finally, given the cost of expanding service provision, stakeholders will also need to work together to do so in the most cost-effective manner possible.
Elements of this collaboration, such as infrastructure sharing, are already in place. We can expect to see more of this type of activity in the future.
Other considerations include: effective use of spectrum, including harnessing wavelengths currently being used for other services like analog TV, tax reform, and other policy levers designed to encourage operator investment.
The strategic investment of government funds to support training, local content provision, the move to m-government and improving mobile connectivity should also not be overlooked.
In 2017, for example, the Zimbabwean government approved a $250m project designed to improve mobile provision in rural areas, by funding more than 600 towers and base stations in areas with poor connectivity.
Given the size and scale of Sub-Saharan Africa, the evolution of the mobile landscape won’t be consistent. Due to the cost and technical challenges of upgrading networks and reaching new consumers, stakeholders must work together if the region’s mobile future is to be realized.
These joint efforts will require continued investment in infrastructure, content and skills, as mobile technologies continue to positively impact the lives of millions of people across the region.
There are already promising signs that this change is happening, but the size and scale of this challenge should not be underestimated.
Previous and related coverage
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Waymo recreated fatal crashes putting its software at the wheel – Here’s how it did
Waymo is tackling the safety issue of autonomous vehicles head-on, using simulations to replay fatal crashes but replacing the human driver involved with the Alphabet company’s software, to show what the Waymo Driver would’ve done differently. The research looked at every fatal accident recorded in Chandler, Arizona – where the Waymo One driverless car-hailing service currently operates – between 2008 and 2017.
“We excluded crashes that didn’t match situations that the Waymo Driver would face in the real world today, such as when crashes occurred outside of our current operating domain,” Trent Victor, Director of Safety Research and Best Practices at Waymo, explains. “Then, the data was used to carefully reconstruct each crash using best-practice methods. Once we had the reconstructions, we simulated how the Waymo Driver might have performed in each scenario.”
In total, there were 72 different simulations that the system needed to handle. In those where there were two cars involved, Waymo modeled each in two ways. First, where the Waymo Driver was in control of the “initiator” vehicle, which initiated the crash, and then again with it as the “responder” vehicle, which responds to the initiator’s actions. That took the total to 91 simulations.
The Waymo Driver avoided every crash as initiator – a total of 52 simulations – Waymo says. That was mainly down to the computer following the rules of the road that human drivers in the actual crashes did not, such as avoiding speeding, maintaining a gap with other traffic, and not running through red lights or failing to yield appropriately.
On the flip side, where the Waymo Driver was the responder, it managed to avoid 82-percent of the crashes in the simulations. According to Waymo’s Victor, “in the vast majority of events, it did so with smooth, consistent driving – without the need to brake hard or make an urgent evasive response.”
In a further 10-percent of the simulations, the Waymo Driver was able to take action to mitigate the crash’s severity. There, the driver was 1.3-15x less likely to sustain a serious injury, Waymo calculates.
Finally, in the remaining 8-percent of crashes simulated, the Waymo Driver was unable to mitigate or avoid the impact. They were all situations where a human-operated vehicle struck the back of a Waymo vehicle that was stationary or moving at a constant speed, this “giving the Waymo Driver little opportunity to respond,” Victor explains.
That is equally important, Waymo argues, because when they finally launch in any significant number, autonomous vehicles are going to have to coexist with human drivers on the road for some time to come. Those human drivers can’t be counted on to follow the same rules as stringently as Waymo’s software demands.
Waymo has released a paper, detailing its findings. Part of the challenge for assessing autonomous vehicles, it argues, is that high-severity collisions are thankfully relatively rare in the real world. As such, “evaluating effectiveness in these scenarios through public road driving alone is not practical given the gradual nature of ADS deployments.”
2022 Genesis G70 Launch Edition previews sport sedan refresh
Genesis has revealed the new 2022 G70 Launch Edition, the first of the refreshed versions of its compact sports sedan to land in the US, looking handsome with the automaker’s striking new design language. Announced last October, Genesis’ smallest sedan will debut initially in the form of the limited-production 2022 G70 Launch Edition, with only 500 expected to be offered.
Where the old G70 had a squared-off fascia, this updated version is a lot softer in its angles. The bottom edge of the oversized shield-shaped front grille now comes to a point in the lower fascia, rather than being flat, while that lower grille section is more muscular and contoured.
It’s the headlamps, though, which are the biggest departure. They get Genesis’ new signature quad-LED element, with dual horizontal daytime running lamp lines on each side. It’s something we’ve seen the automaker put to good use on its larger sedans, and on SUVs like the new GV80.
Genesis says the new G70 is lower and wider at the front end, while the profile of the sedan is sharper, too. At the rear, the trunk lid has been smoothed out, with a more distinctive integrated spoiler. The taillamp clusters, meanwhile, have a more angular appearance, echoing the quad LED light signature at the front. Altogether it looks tidier and more focused than the outgoing car.
Inside, meanwhile, the changes are more subtle. The dashboard shape in general has been carried over, with dedicated HVAC control knobs, a physical transmission shifter, and a multifunction steering wheel. However there’s now a new 10.25-inch HD display atop the dashboard, replacing the old 8-inch version.
That gets the graphics from Genesis’ more recent models, a huge improvement compared to the Hyundai-donated software UI in the last-gen G70. There’s both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and the driver gets an 8-inch HD digital gauge cluster flanked by analog dials.
As for what’s under the hood, don’t expect a departure from the existing engines. That includes the optional 3.3-liter twin-turbo V6, with 365 horsepower. The entry engine is a carry-over of the 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4, with 252 horsepower. An 8-speed automatic is likely to be standard; the six-speed manual gearbox Genesis once offered won’t be making an appearance.
Genesis will keep the options simple for the Launch Edition: it’ll only offer the sedan in Verbier White or Melbourne Grey matte paint. 19-inch black wheels will be standard, as will a red leather interior. Although you’ll be able to pick RWD or AWD, the G70 Launch Edition will only be offered with the more potent V6 engine, Car & Driver reports.
Pricing is yet to be confirmed, though the current G70 starts at just north of $37k. Reservations for the Launch Edition are open now, with the first cars set to arrive in the US come the spring.
GMC Hummer EV SUV reveal dated: Watch the electric pickup go sideways on ice
GMC will reveal its second Hummer EV variant in just a few weeks time, with the SUV version of the all-electric super truck promising an alternative body-style to the original pickup. The GMC Hummer EV SUV will be unveiled on April 3, the automaker confirmed today, though this isn’t the first time we’ve heard about the new version.
Back in July 2020, in fact, GMC teased what we could expect from the SUV body. As you might expect, it’s the same bold lines and chunky styling from the front back to roughly the C-pillars.
However unlike the pickup’s roughly 5 foot long bed, the SUV will have an enclosed cargo area. That will allow for a spare wheel to be mounted on the tailgate. We’re still expecting to see removable roof panels, allowing most of the top of the electric truck to be opened up, though final cargo capacity will have to wait until the official reveal.
As for what’s underneath the sheet metal, there we’re unlikely to see GMC straying too far from the architecture of the Hummer EV pickup. Based on GM’s Ultium platform for electric vehicles, that includes up to three motors and 1,000 horsepower in total, depending on trim. Torque vectoring – where power is individually controlled in its delivery to each rear wheel – and a “CrabWalk” mode that allows the trunk to track diagonally at low speeds in off-road or tight parking lot conditions are also supported.
0-60 mph should come in around 3 seconds for the most potent Hummer EV, GMC has said, while range will be up to around 350 miles on a charge. 800V DC fast charging with support for up to 350 kW should mean 100 miles of range added in just 10 minutes.
While GMC is launching the pickup version with the limited-availability 2022 Hummer EV Edition 1 first, it has more affordable versions planned for 2022 and beyond. That’s likely to be the same strategy the automaker takes with the electric SUV, with premium pricing and a heavily constrained supply to begin with. Reservations for the SUV will open on April 3, GMC has said.
As for progress on the electric pickup, GMC says it has been undertaking winter testing in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, making ample use of the snow and ice to see how the all-wheel drive holds up. That also includes testing of the electronic stability control and traction control.
Production of the 2022 Hummer EV pickup is expected to begin in the fall, GMC says, with initial deliveries before the end of the year.
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