More People on the African Continent Own a Mobile Phone – Statistics Show Trends on Par with US


Mobile phone ownership within the African market is poised to reach 346 million by 2017. This growth has far-exceeded traditional landline phone connections. Studies have shown that in even the poorest 20%of the Sub-Saharan population report having at least one phone in their household.

These trends were solidified by research by the Pew Research Center which conducted a survey of over 7000 Africans in Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, Ghana, Uganda and South Africa. Insights gained from the survey revealed that mobile phone penetration in South Africa and Nigeria (the two biggest economies on the continent) rivals that of the U.S.A where 89% of American adults own a cell phone.

According to Pew, “Ownership is especially high in South Africa and Nigeria, where about nine-in-ten have a cell phone.”

The growth has been considerable and seems set to continue.

In 2002, only one tenth of the populations of Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya and Ghana owned a mobile phone, according to Pew. Today those figures have expanded to more than 65% in each of these countries.

Popular uses of mobile devices range from accessing social networks, to sending text messages, to taking pictures and creating videos. Another popular use is for mobile banking.

In Nigeria, one in four people were shown to own a smartphone. In South Africa, one third of the respondents reported having a smartphone. A number of factors may underlie this finding, such as socio-economic issues. In comparison, 64% of Americans have a smartphone, the survey said.

A large number of cell phone owners are the youth across the continent.

Teresa Clarke, the chief executive officer of, a news website, says, “The cell phone is their landline, ATM and email in one device. Cell phones are central to life.”

This study will be useful for various tech organisations in terms of insight into the African digital market and what inroads can be made.


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