People might not associate rapid technology growth – especially mobile tech growth – with Africa. However, in 2011, Africa experienced a huge growth in tech, especially with mobile technologies. A recent article in The Economist estimates that there are 600 million mobile phone users in Africa, more than in North America or Europe. Africa’s mobile telephone subscriptions are growing at twice the global average and tablet computers are hitting the market. And that growth is expected to continue in 2012 as investors flock to build technologies in Africa.
And this is just the beginning, according to a recent blog post on Afrinnovator. Author Mbwana Alliy offers 12 tech predictions for Africa in 2012 – most of them centring around mobile technologies. In his article, Alliy asserts that smartphones will become cheaper and more available and that mhealth and mobile money technologies will improve. He predicts that mobile broadband roll-out will start to expanding services into rural area, increasing smartphone usage. He also says mobile money will begin to grow outside Kenya and mobile commerce will experience growth as well.
But Alliy also warns that investing in mobile technologies may not be quite so easy. Mobile health projects will expand, but that startups health companies will need to scale quickly in order to survive. Most can survive still as smaller pilot programs. Finally, there will be a rush to invest in mobile tech in Africa, especially as Africa crosses the 700 million mark for mobile users. But, investors may be focused more on infrastructure growth to support all these new technologies.
So what could some of these predictions mean? A recent “Poverty Matters” post from The Guardian cites a GSM Association study that mobile broadband growth could create up to 27 million new jobs and increase GDP per capita by 5.2%, lifting 40 million people out of poverty. Socially, Alliy also points out that social media growth, especially with Facebook and Twitter, could led to disruption in media services and press as demand grows for both services. Tech education and educational partnerships to train local talent will be crucial to keep up with the booming mobile tech market and the billions of people waiting to use more mobile technologies.