Ugandan tech industry hailed

By Samuel Sanya

The report titled: "The Mobile Economy Sub-Saharan Africa" pointed out that 3G adoption has doubled over the last two years, and will eclipse 2G networks this year as a result of network coverage expansion and cheaper devices in Africa.

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Innovations in Uganda's tech industry have been highlighted in GSMA's recent report on the sub-Saharan mobile phone industry, an indication of Kampala's emerging status as a tech hub on the continent.


The report titled: "The Mobile Economy Sub-Saharan Africa" pointed out that 3G adoption has doubled over the last two years, and will eclipse 2G networks this year as a result of network coverage expansion and cheaper devices in Africa.


Uganda's busy tech industry


The report applauded MTN Uganda for launching its mobile money API (Application Programming Interface), enabling developer access to MTN's mobile money's proprietary software platform.

Also highlighted in the report is a Ugandan app called "Awamo". Awamo uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to reduce fraud when signing up customers and businesses to its platform, which operates as a digital banking platform and credit bureau.

Its platform helps digitise business procedures, credit information sharing, and many other services using mobile devices.


The report also applauded "SafeBoda", one of several ride-hailing apps for motor cycle transportation - one of the most popular forms of urban transit - in the region. The Kampala-headquartered SafeBoda has expanded into Kenya.

 Youth driving 3G adoption

Third-generation wireless mobile telecommunications technology is set to become the predominant means of communication in Africa driven by a wave of value-added services according to a report by GSMA Intelligence.


The 3G networks are much faster than 2G networks that were launched in 1991. In addition, location information is available to 3G devices which give rise to applications not previously available to mobile phone users.


Some countries like South Korea are already consuming fourth-generation connections; 4G enables expanded amenities to 3G with applications that include amended mobile web access, gaming services, high definition mobile TV, video conferencing, 3D TV, and cloud computing.


The report noted that the high cost of 4G-enabled devices and delays in assigning 4G spectrum to established service providers in some markets have been among the factors holding back 4G uptake in Sub-Saharan Africa.


However, this is beginning to change due to new 4G spectrum assignments in several countries and a marked increase in network deployment. Seven LTE (4G Long Term Evolution) networks have been launched in the region since the start of 2019, including in Ghana and Burkina Faso.


It is projected that 4G adoption will overtake 2G in 2023 and rise to 23% of connections by 2025.


"Sub-Saharan Africa will remain the fastest-growing region, with an additional 167 million subscribers over the period to 2025. This will take the total subscriber base to just over 600 million, representing around half the population," the report says.


It points out that Nigeria and Ethiopia will record the fastest growth rates between now and 2025, at 19% and 11% respectively. It also notes that across the region, the demographic bulge will result in large numbers of young consumers becoming adults and owning a mobile phone for the first time.


This segment of the population will account for the majority of new mobile subscribers and, as ‘digital natives', will significantly influence mobile usage patterns in the future.


Mobile-enabled platforms are increasingly disrupting traditional value chains in different verticals across the region. These platforms - mostly developed by a rapidly expanding local tech start-up ecosystem - are helping to eliminate inefficiencies in conventional business models, as well as extend the reach of services and provide greater choice to consumers.


"A new generation of youthful ‘digital natives' across Sub-Saharan Africa are set to fuel customer growth and drive adoption of new mobile services that are empowering lives and transforming businesses," said Akinwale Goodluck, head of Sub-Saharan Africa, GSMA.


"With mobile technology at the heart of Sub-Saharan Africa's digital journey, it is essential for policymakers in the region to implement policies and best practices that ensure sustainable growth in the mobile industry, and enable the transition to next-generation mobile networks," he added.


The study calculates that the mobile ecosystem across Sub-Saharan Africa generated almost $150b in economic value last year - equivalent to 8.6% of the region's GDP. It is forecast to generate almost $185b or 9.1% by 2023.


The new report also reveals that around 239 million people, equivalent to 23% of the region's population, use the mobile internet on a regular basis. Smartphones accounted for 39% of mobile connections in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2018, and is forecast to increase to two-thirds of connections by 2025.


Sub-Saharan Africa mobile operators are increasing investment in their networks and are expected to spend $60b in capital investment on network infrastructure and services between 2018 and 2025 - almost a fifth of this total being invested in new 5G networks.


The regions mobile ecosystem supports around 3.5 million jobs, directly and indirectly, and last year contributed almost $15.6b to the funding of the public sector through consumer and operator taxes.