Knowledge Bridge

Global Intelligence for the Digital Transition

Study: Sub-Saharan mobile internet use more practical than playful

Sub-Saharan Africans use of mobile by TNS

Global consultancy TNS has just released a report (PDF) looking at mobile use in Sub-Saharan Africa, giving valuable information to news and media organisations about who is accessing their content via mobile internet and the services those consumers are interested in. The report notes that between 2000 and 2011, internet use grew faster in Africa than anywhere else in the world, although that still means that only 12% of people in Sub-Saharan Africa use the internet. The report is quick to point out:

However, these consumers’ experience of digital media remains very different to that of audiences in other markets, focused on less playful, more purposeful roles such as social networking, e-learning and banking.

For one, digital media is primarily consumed via mobile. Four out five internet users in Sub-Saharan Africa are mobile internet users, accessing it via their mobile phone, and 75% of users in the region say they would be satisfied if their mobile phone was their sole means of internet access, compared with 25% of users in developed economies. The report also says that mobile web users in Sub-Saharan Africa are very different to the gadget-obsessed stereotype of users in the West. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the typical mobile web user is:

typically younger (43 percent are aged 16-24, compared to 27 percent of web users worldwide), with lower spending power, and holds a Nokia or Samsung feature phone rather than an iPhone or Android handset.

With lower speeds and lower spending power, Sub-Saharan mobile internet users use online entertainment such as YouTube less than the global average and shop far less than the global average, with only 2% of Sub-Saharan Africans using their mobile phones to complete a purchase, versus 24% of users globally.

Communication remains the biggest driver of use for Sub-Saharan Africans, and 58% of users in the region say that social networking is the most important activity on their web-enabled mobile phone versus 26% globally. One important element to note is that 70% of “Sub-Saharan web users say that social networks are a good place to learn about products and brands”.

Cheaper Android handsets from Asian manufacturers Huawei and HTC will drive uptake of new services as will Sub-Saharan Africans’ growing awareness of the different services that they can access through their phones. The report ends with a warning:

Exporting business models from other regions (or even other countries within Sub-Saharan Africa) is unlikely to prove effective.

This is an extremely diverse region, and understanding of cultural nuances, demographics and different stages of digital development is crucial to creating engagement.

Article by Kevin Anderson

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