The top mobile markets in East Africa and the Indian Ocean islands – Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, each with about 10-million subscribers – are among the most liberalised on the continent.

According to research, each of these three markets has been a laboratory for competition. For example, Tanzania has issued seven mobile licences and Uganda has issued six. The number of operators has resulted in increased investment and marketing spend in the top three markets.
Importantly, in all three countries, this competition has benefited African consumers as the cost of owning and using a mobile phone has fallen.
Tanzania and Uganda have what is known as a unified licensing framework and this has encouraged operators to offer mobile broadband to their subscribers. Each country now has several hundred thousand subscribers who access the Internet using their mobile phone.
Based on data gathered for a new report from Balancing Act called African Telecoms and Internet Markets – Part 3: East Africa, there have been dramatic drops in mobile charges, opening the market to a wider number of users.
Among the 15 countries in this report, there are really only five that have any scale in population terms: Ethiopia (83-million), Tanzania (39,5-million), Kenya (38-million), Uganda (29,5-million) and Madagascar (20-million). At the other end of the scale there are five countries and territories – Comoros, Djibouti, Mayotte, Reunion and Seychelles – with populations of below 1-million.
Nevertheless, it is mainly the Indian Ocean Islands with small populations that have much higher GDP per capita than the more populous countries. Tourism has driven growth in Mauritius and Seychelles and the connection to France for the territories of Mayotte and Reunion has had a similar effect.