West Africa has recorded massive growth in mobile subsciptions, with close to 50-million subscribers recorded by the end of 2006. 


"The mobile market in West Africa has been growing faster than Africa's market as a whole over 2006, recording a 58% increase in subscriptions compared with 39% over the whole continent", says Thecla Mbongue, research analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media. "The sub-region is expected to continue to sustain a higher growth rate than the average for the continent over the next five years."
This news is particularly relevant to the local markets as the health of the telecoms sector has a direct impact on the general economy of a country or region. Indeed, a study published by the GSM Association, one of the industry's foremost organisations, showed that a growth of 10% points in mobile penetration will boost a country's annual economic growth rate by 1,2% points in developing markets.
In this context, the moves of Nigerian Communications Commission, which regulates the region's largest market, are to be followed closely.
In 2006, it awarded unified licences, allowing licensees to offer a diverse range of services (such as mobile and broadband) from one licence. This followed a process already put in place in other African countries, whose objective is to encourage competition, for the benefit of the consumers and the overall economy.
One of its effects is to allow alternative technologies such as CDMA or wireless broadband to compete with GSM, which is the traditional choice for mobile operators in the region. It is still too early to find out how this measure is impacting on the market, but Nigeria is already expected to become Africa's largest mobile market by the end of 2007, ahead of current leader South Africa.