SMARTPHONES are Africa’s present, not its future – half the phone shipments in Africa in 2016 have been smartphones, one third of users check their phones every five minutes.
That’s according to a new consumer survey by market analysts Deloitte, which also reveals that for African smartphone users, money is not the main issue in choosing a mobile/data service provider.
They are first and foremost concerned about the reliability, coverage and speed of a mobile/data operator, they expect first-class treatment from their service providers.
For consumers in the region, there is nothing more frustrating than an unreliable network. Mobile network subscribers across all surveyed markets view the actual or perceived reliability, coverage and speed of the voice and data network as the most important criteria for choosing an operator.
“The price of an internet plan” is only a fourth-order concern for consumers surveyed in the five African countries included in the data: Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe.[advanced_iframe securitykey=”68f51ed951ec4f22230bb7eb91315944cb08a912″ src=”//datawrapper.dwcdn.net/L1SmC/1/” frameborder=”0″ transparency=”true” allowfullscreen=”true” width=”100%” height=”443″ onload_resize=”true” enable_responsive_iframe=”true”]
The relative insensitivity to the price of data suggests that data almost becomes a basic need, once you begin to use it – even in African consumers, a continent that is otherwise price sensitive on many other consumer goods.
Poverty levels are still quite high, with items such as food and other necessities dominating consumer budgets. But mobile continues to come first in Africa, even before electricity, water, roads and even food.
AIRTIME OVER FOOD
One 2013 study commissioned by the World Bank showed that most of Kenya’s urban poor would rather go hungry and walk to work than be short of airtime.
The study found that seven out of 10 poor people would rather cut back food expenses to spare money for airtime, says this story by the Business Daily , in the hope that having an operational phone could help them earn some money.
With most being casual labourers with an unpredictable income stream, they need to be reachable in case someone calls them with a job – and many of those transactions are now happening on platforms such as Facebook and WhatApp.
It also suggests that perhaps African consumers expect data to be expensive; they have just accepted this as a fact and moved on to at least getting value for their money.
Between 47% and 56% of consumers in the markets are satisfied with the internet speeds they currently receive. This still leaves the rest of the market dissatisfied; which represents a significant opportunity for operators to continue to drive internet growth and customer uptake in the region, the Deloitte survey showed.
The demand for faster internet is expected to grow significantly as the usage of data hungry applications and real-time applications increase in the market. For mobile operators, the upgrade of 2G/3G technologies to faster technologies (e.g. 4G/LTE) can therefore be a strong competitive differentiator.[advanced_iframe securitykey=”68f51ed951ec4f22230bb7eb91315944cb08a912″ src=”//datawrapper.dwcdn.net/lvmAm/2/” frameborder=”0″ transparency=”true” allowfullscreen=”true” width=”100%” height=”280″ onload_resize=”true” enable_responsive_iframe=”true”]
On average, approximately 20% of the consumer base would be prepared to pay more for access to faster internet speeds, which indicates strong revenue and profit increase potential for operators through pricing models that are linked to the speeds offered.
But Deloitte research shows that a big cause of frustration in Africa’s mobile data ecosystem is the lack of metered data usage – which consumers will be familiar with in the form of airtime that mysteriously “disappears”.
Depending on the country, between 18% and 20% of consumers surveyed indicate that the lack of information and controls to meter data usage is a deterrent to increased data consumption.