Mobile data prices prohibitive in Africa, says Opera

High data costs are limiting full internet usage in Africa with 20MB being used per month despite the increasing mobile penetration, a leading global internet company has said.

Opera in a State of the Mobile Web in Africa 2016 report said the data costs are highly prohibitive.

By Kudakwashe Pembere

“Data remains prohibitively expensive for many mobile users in Africa. This means that even if smartphone penetration is increasing, many people don’t use their devices to their full benefit,” said the company.


“Whilst someone in Germany on an ‘average’ salary can afford 500MB after working for just one hour, a Nigerian will have to work around three and a half days to afford the same.”


“Indeed, it’s not surprising that 53% of Africans can afford only 20MB per month,” said Opera.

This observation comes at a time when the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe is reviewing Zimbabwe’s exorbitant data charges.

“We have asked ourselves the question how can we make data affordable such that it is a tool for development rather than a privilege, that price is used as a basis for discrimination. We are in the process of directing our mobile operators with regards to a floor price, a basis minimum price that we feel data should be provided at,” said Potraz chairman Ozias Bvute.

According to a report on the state of prepaid market-cost of communication  prepared by Research ICT Africa, Zimbabwe has the third most expensive mobile data in Africa with the cheapest monthly 1 GB data package in the country set at $30.

The State of the Mobile Web in Africa report highlights mobile internet trends across the continent, including consumer browsing behaviour and app usage. Opera – known for its compression technology and mobile browsers, including Opera Mini compiles regular global mobile web reports, shedding light on opportunities and challenges within the digital environment.

Opera Software Logo

Opera Software Logo

Ghanaians, Kenyans, Seychellois and Mauritians are the highest data users with an average usage of over 160MB/month. Findings also show that visits to streaming video websites on Opera Mini in Africa have increased by 36% since 2012. Users from Tanzania (22%) are most likely to visit YouTube followed by South Africa (20%) and Ghana (19%).
South Africa ranks first in Africa in terms of app usage, with a third of its population using mobile applications, followed by 31% in Ghana, 28% in Nigeria, 19% in Kenya and 18% in Uganda. Nigerians are regular social media users with 70% of Nigeria’s 16 million Facebook users, accessing the site via Opera Mini. In addition, Opera Mini users are accessing local news as much as 300% more than in 2014.

“We believe data compression is as relevant and useful now as it was a decade ago – in fact, with the growth of smartphone penetration coupled with prohibitively high data costs, it’s a critical enabler,” says Richard Monday, VP for Opera, Africa. “The #DataMustFall movement in South Africa demonstrates that people don’t feel like they’re getting value for money. The compression technology used in Opera Mini and Opera Max helps consumers save on data costs and addresses issues relating to congestion and page sizes. Ultimately, a lighter mobile web enhances usability, functionality and access – even in poor network conditions.”

In 2016, Opera’s compression technology has allowed South Africans to save approximately US$111m in data costs, with Nigerians and Kenyans saving US$280m and US$116m, respectively.

Opera currently has 100 million users in Africa, with an 86.41% market share in Kenya, 71.83% in Nigeria and 53.1% in South Africa.

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