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Summary:

Opera’s latest report indicates that mobile page views are up more than 4,900 percent in Sudan, while growth in mobile web users has risen 1,179 percent in Zimbabwe. If I were a mobile web service provider, I’d pack for a safari quickly head to Africa.

sahara-desert

The growth rate of mobile browsing in some African nations is up 365 percent compared to page views in those countries just one year ago. Unique users to the mobile web in Africa are on the rise too, growing 176 percent over the past 12 months. Developer and website focus may be on more developed nations with mature wireless infrastructures, but service providers shouldn’t be turning their backs on Africa just as the mobile revolution is dawning there.

This data on mobile browsing in Africa comes by way of Opera’s monthly State of the Mobile Web report, the most recent version released just this morning. Most of the report focuses on the standard bits: information showing the amount of data that Opera web users consumed, how much bandwidth is saved by Opera’s money-saving compression technology and so on. But more interesting to me is the last section, which is completely devoted to mobile browsing in Africa. Some additional highlights:

  • Mobile web data transferred in the ten African countries with the most page views is up 331 percent.
  • Those top ten nations using Opera Mini include: South Africa, Nigeria, Egypt, Kenya, Ghana, Sudan, Libya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Namibia.
  • Sudan, at 4908.2 percent, and Zimbabwe, with 2321.6 percent, lead the region in terms of annual page-view growth.
  • These same two countries show the most annual growth in unique users: Zimbabwe’s user growth has increased 1719.3 percent, while Sudan’s is up 1219.4 percent.
  • While Nokia may have struck out again in the U.S. recently, it continues to do well in Africa’s low- to mid-tier handset market: In 6 of the top 10 countries, the top 10 handset lists were comprised solely of Nokia handsets, with the Nokia 5130 XpressMusic routinely being the most popular device.

So what’s causing such explosive mobile web growth across the African continent? That’s difficult to say, although in areas with limited or slow wireless networks, Opera’s mobile browsers can speed up surfing while using less bandwidth. Opera’s report gives a glimpse of another reason: the growing popularity of top-tiered, global web destinations. According to Opera’s data, Facebook, Google and YouTube are all routinely among the top four websites being hit up by handsets in African countries.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t room in Africa for other popular web sites on mobiles though, so if I were a mobile cloud provider or webmaster for some other mobile service, I’d consider packing my bags for a little safari right about now. And on that trip, I’d also be looking to see if any low-priced Google Android handsets could be hunted and bagged or if Nokia will continue to be king of the African jungle.

Image credit: Flickr user Michael Gwyther-Jones.

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  1. I just finished a 6yr stint living & working in West Africa. Mobile phone service was spotty at best. All of the AT&T haters that complain about dropped calls should be forced to spend a month on the African continent & try usinig one of those mobile phone service providers. Data (as of the end of July, 2010) was basically unusable in most countries. I could get my email on my Blackberry, but using Twitter apps, Facebook apps, etc… was almost impossible, South Africa being the only exception.

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    1. Gabe, I’m curious: were you in any of the top 10 countries noted in Opera’s report? I don’t doubt your experience at all, just trying to get a feel for which countries are further along than others in terms of connectivity. Thx!

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  2. well, I am currently in Tanzania and the connectivity in the area i live in is fabulous… i have never had any complaints and i bet the data rates are much cheaper than in the states.. i completely understand that there could be as much growth as opera reports…especially with the reduction in cost of services by all the major carriers(airtel/zain, zantel etc.)

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  3. Kevin,
    I work in the cellphone industry as an engineer. I have so far traveled to three African countries and worked in one Latin America and I live and work in US.
    If I compare the performance of the networks in terms of coverage and other KPIs- the African and Latin were definitely were definitely much better than US networks especially in cities.
    In those countries, there isn’t much zoning(height limits) and community opposition- so you can design and build the best possible network.
    Of course some of those countries don’t have an FCC type of requirements “operator needs to cover 90% pops” as license requirement- so you can have a network that has minimal coverage outside cities because it doesn’t want to spend money on expansion..
    But two things are changing that now:
    1. competition is forcing operators to maximize coverage
    2. Also, international telco conglomerates with big pockets are all trying to come to the Continent because other world markets already have high penetration rate..

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    1. Great insights and information – thanks!

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  4. With many more organisations developing fast wireless networks and an increasing number of people able to purchase and afford the running costs of smartphones, growth in mobile web usuage looks set to continue!

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  5. [...] which is home to less expensive smartphones and a huge chunk of the global population? What about African nations where mobile web browsing is up more than 4,900 percent? The company’s success at the higher end of the market could hamper sales in the future [...]

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  6. I run Kenyan Social Media start up Whive.com and I constantly shuttle between Kenya and UK. Each time I come back to Kenya I find things have changed dramatically… and now internet broadband speeds are at least half of that in the UK (3 mbps).

    This however is still too costly for the average Kenyan and remains a major barrier to entry to Mobile Web adoption.

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  7. [...] data usage is ramping up substantially in emerging markets — like those in Africa — where smartphone uptake lags. Feature phones don’t provide the level of high-quality user [...]

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  8. [...] Mobile Web Growth in Africa: Hotter Than the Sahara! [...]

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  9. What is interesting about all this is that increased mobile penetration is having a clear effect on other aspects of ICT in Africa, like online training. This really is a market waiting to take off.

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  10. [...] habits change and Internet-based, apps-driven services become more popular. It’s clear that an appetite for mobile content exists and continues to grow but it is not yet the mass market norm. That day, however, is not too far away. A first time buyer [...]

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