Africa: the world’s ‘fastest growing’ mobile data market


The Middle East and Africa (MEA) is forecast to have the fastest regional mobile data traffic growth rate in the world over the next five years, according to network equipment firm Cisco.

In its Visual Networking Index (VNI) Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast, Cisco has said that it expects mobile data traffic in MEA to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 77% until 2017.

Cisco predicts the Middle East and Africa’s mobile data traffic could reach 861,298 terabytes per month in 2017, the equivalent of 2,374 million text messages each second.

The MEA mobile data traffic growth is forecast to outpace the likes of Asia-Pacific’s annual growth rate of 76% and Latin America’s 67%.

Meanwhile, Central and Eastern Europe is to have 66% CAGR, North America to have 56% CAGR and Western Europe 50% CAGR during the same period.

“The Middle East and Africa will have the strongest mobile data traffic growth of any region at 77% compound annual growth rate (CAGR),” reads the report.

Thomas Barnett Jr, director market management at Cisco, told ITWeb Africa there are four key drivers for mobile data traffic for the Middle East and Africa region.

“The first one is more mobile users, two is more mobile devices or connections, three is faster mobile (cellular) connection speeds, and four is more mobile video content viewing and application use,” said Barnett Jr.

He added that “smartphones will be the primary driver of mobile data traffic growth in MEA from a device perspective.”

According to Barnett Jr, in the Middle East and Africa, the number of smartphones grew 42% during 2012, reaching 89 million in number.

“In this region the number of smartphones will grow 3.3-fold between 2012 and 2017, reaching 296 million in number,” he said.

Cisco further expects global mobile data traffic to increase 13-fold between 2012 and 2017, and global CAGR is expected to be 66%.

Spiwe Chireka, International Data Corporation (IDC) program manager for Telecoms, Africa region, says she agrees with Cisco’s mobile data traffic findings for MEA.

“If you look at markets such as South Africa, operators such as Vodacom are reporting data traffic growth of 25% plus per quarter which is exponential growth by any standards. If we take into account that data is not as well developed in the rest of Africa, growth rates of 77% are not far fetched, given that the majority of growth will be off a small base,” Chireka told ITWeb Africa.

Africa, though, does have one of the lowest smartphone usage rates in the world. According to Microsoft, Africa’s smartphone penetration rate currently stands at just 10% of mobile phone users on the continent.

The GSM Association (GSMA) predicted that in 2012 there would be more than 735 million subscribers in Africa.

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