Mobile Communications

Mobile Across Borders in Africa

2012 saw the BuzzCity network grow by 67% with over 210.8 billion ads served across the globe and this extensive growth in mobile usage is certain to continue as we move through 2013. But where is this growth coming from?

According to our latest research, when it comes to regional breakdowns it is worth looking beyond the well-known growth markets of India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, as the emerging African market is expected to see continued mobile internet adoption.

In particular South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya and Ghana are seeing significant growth. Nigeria's phenomenal growth continues - three quarters of double digit growth led to a year-on-year annual growth of 68%. As per many emerging markets Nokia phones dominate the market (39%, previously 62%), although White Box (30%) phones continue to gain popularity (previously 24%). Smartphone penetration remains modest (10%) in relation to the rest of the network and advertisers are targeting feature phone users before they migrate to smartphones. This is however not reflected in regions such as South Africa, where we've seen smartphone penetration reach 32% as it rapidly becomes the mainstream device.

Smartphone use has been growing globally and across our own network we are seeing a massive migration of users from feature phones to smartphones. Although the growth itself is not surprising, the rate of growth is explosive - by December 2012, half of mobile surfers in 50 countries around the world surf with smartphones! Consumer preference for smartphones is now undeniable and mobile players should specifically look out for a rapid shift in Indonesia, Philippines, Mexico and Argentina over the next 12 months. Although Africa is also seeing growth, it may be another year before it reaches the explosive levels of growth other regions have experienced.

However, emerging markets are leading the way when it comes to bringing new products onto mobile that will offer consumers even more convenient solutions. Across Africa and Asia, "mobile phones are used less for talking and more today as platforms to support daily living," writes Robin Renee Sanders, a former US Ambassador to Nigeria, who argues that creative apps and mobile services are improving people's quality of life. For example, we've already seen mobile banking and micro financing entering the mobile market and we envisage mobile healthcare will develop and grow in much the same way; by solving the problem of accessibility. Another example in South Africa is "MoMaths", a teaching tool that targets users of a popular instant messaging platform as well as an NGO called Refugees United "offers a safe, secure and anonymous way to find family and friends". And in China, Baidu Xunren has a service that helps locate kidnapped children (there's another app for finding lost dogs).

Emerging markets are undoubtedly leading the way when it comes to a mobile offering, due to the reliance on mobile but also because of the tailored regional content supplied by brands. With consumers more empowered by mobile than ever before, developed regions should take note of their counterparts.

By Dr KF Lai, CEO of BuzzCity



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