The number of mobile connections in Africa has increased by a staggering 70-million over the past year and now stands at 282-million – putting the continent's 35-million fixed line connections in the shade.
These figures were announced yesterday by the GSMA, which points out the mobile operators have ramped up investment in the region extending GSM coverage to reach an additional 550 000 square kilometres occupied by 46 million people.
The broadening coverage and the falling cost of mobile communications is enabling tens of millions of Africans to become connected for the first time in their lives.
"Africa's mobile industry is delivering on its promise to blanket the continent's inhabitants with coverage giving tens of thousands of rural communities their first opportunity to realise the substantial social and economic benefits of mobile communications," says Tom Phillips, chief government & regulatory affairs officer of the GSMA, speaking at the ITU Telecom Africa event in Cairo.
"However, more than 300-million rural Africans do not yet have mobile coverage. They live in an area the size of China, India and the US combined. Developing sustainable business models to serve these communities is a great challenge, which requires the mobile industry and African governments to work together."
The Dunn & Company report commissioned by the GSMA also notes that the uptake of mobile wallets around the globe is predicted to grow exponentially over the next few years, reaching 1,4-billion by 2015.
With such huge growth expected in the industry it is essential that organisations wishing to offer the mobile wallet solution engage the right technology partner to ensure successful deployments solutions and regulatory compliance, says Hannes van Rensburg, chief executive of Fundamo.
Van Rensburg's comments come on the eve of the Mobile Money Summit, hosted by the GSMA in Cairo, where he will share the speaker platform with other industry players this week to discuss the challenges faced by the mobile wallet industry and the suggested solutions.
The summit will investigate business models, the regulatory hurdles, and the development of a global cross-border infrastructure amongst other pressing issues.
"Our experience shows that to deploy and support a mobile wallet solution is not a trivial exercise. It requires a complete and multi-faceted approach to ensure the business success of these projects and then of course this solution needs to conform to banking specifications and security. It takes not only great technology, but an experienced supplier to deliver a reliable solution. It is a crucial element for Mobile Operators to consider when selecting their supplier," explains van Rensburg.
Fundamo, which has been rolling out mobile payment technology in the Europe, Middle-East and Africa regions for the last nine years, was recently chosen by the GSMA to provide the technology for the rollout of a mobile wallet pilot programme which is to be offered to about 700 mobile operators.
According to research from FinMark Trust, there are 65-million unbanked people in the world; the rollout of mobile wallets is set to reduce this number significantly.
A mobile wallet, the combination of a phone and branded payment card, offers a powerful proposition for Mobile Network Operators (MNO) and partner banks, leveraging the MNO's customer penetration and brand image, and the bank's stability and payment skills, to enable remote payments, person-to-person payments and international remittances.
"There is consensus among analysts and market experts that there is a major interest in the mobile wallet solution. In Africa and Middle East for instance, there are many examples where the adoption of mobile wallets has been successful particularly in Kenya, South Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo," says van Rensburg.