GSMA, through GSMA Intelligence - its data and analysis arm - has released a report [PDF] which indicates that mobile subscriber growth in Sub-Saharan Africa is slowing down.
"Growth rates in the region have fallen well below the double-digit annual rates seen in the first half of the decade, and the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for the next five years is around half the level recorded over the preceding five years," the report noted.
This is despite the fact that the region still has low penetration level as compared to the rest of the world.
As at the end of 2017, the "[mobile] subscriber base in the [sub-Saharan] region totalled [sic] 444 million, equivalent to around 9% of subscribers globally" according to GSMA.
"Unique mobile subscriber penetration in Sub-Saharan Africa stood at 44% at the end of 2017, still well below the global average of 66%."
This slowed growth is partly due to the challenges stemming from affordability as well as the burden of a youthful population. Which could be linked to the lack of disposable income as the continent still grapples with the ever-growing problem of youth unemployment.
"Subscriber growth in Sub-Saharan Africa has slowed in recent years as the industry
confronts the challenges of affordability and a youthful population," the report said.
Also read: There are 442 active tech hubs in Africa, GSMA 2018 report
The mobile subscriber base for the sub-Saharan area is projected to continue with the slowed growth for the next half-decade. "The compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for the next five years is around half the level recorded over the preceding five years," the report noted.
The growth is anticipated to happen in rural areas mostly.
"Future growth opportunities will increasingly be concentrated in rural and low-ARPU markets, as well as younger demographic groups. World Bank data indicates that around 40% of the population in the region are under the age of 16, a demographic segment that has significantly lower levels of mobile ownership than the population as a whole."
The report also pointed out that in the next 5 years, the region will rise from the current penetration level of 44% to 50% which would still be below the current global average of 66%.
"The regional subscriber base will grow at a CAGR of 4.8% for the period 2017–2022, more than double the global growth rate over the same period," the report noted.
Adding that "the penetration rate is forecast to reach the 50% level by the end of 2023, and 52% by 2025."
Other noteworthy areas covered in the report are; the dawn of 5G in Africa, how much mobile is contributing to the sub-Saharan economy as well as how mobile is enabling the digital economy.