12 Ways Mobile Phones Have Transformed Africa

The telecommunication industry in Africa has witnessed a revolution especially with the onset of the handset mobile phones. Mobile phones have changed the ways companies, government agencies and other institutions deal with citizen in many African countries.

Apart from easing communication, the wide use of mobile phones has boosted the economic output of individuals living on the continent. It is estimated that more than half of sub-Saharan Africa’s adult population is now connected to a mobile phone. This has quickly increasing financial inclusivity through mobile money.

Here are 12 changes mobile phones have brought to Africa:


Money transfer

In 2007, Kenya’s largest telecom company, Safaricom, and Vodacom in Tanzania launched mobile- phone-based money transfer service called M-Pesa. In Kenya, M-Pesa  has more than 20 million users, who transact about 30 percent of the country’s GDP. For a long time mobile money transfers were confined with country borders, but are now moving across borders and across continents.




Mobile money has moved millions of Africans from using the traditional brick-and-mortar banking system to transacting almost all transactions on their phones. For Example in Kenya, Safaricom subscribers can deposit and withdraw money from their bank accounts using cellphones. In some cases subscribers can even save and borrow directly from their mobile phones.


Kenyan farmer mobile


Mobile phone proliferation has transformed communication in sub-Saharan Africa. Unlike before when only physical delivered letters were used to communicate, since fixed telephones were the preserve of a few, nearly 70 percent of the continent’s adults can access a mobile phone now.


Photo: telegraph.co.uk

Health care

Emerging African tech startups have come up with ingenious ways of connecting patients to doctors and verifying that drugs bought from a chemist are genuine. In Nigeria, genuine medicine packs have secret codes that customers can use to verify if the drug is genuine or not. Other startups have also come up with healthcare apps such as Impilo in South Africa and Sema Doc. in Kenya.




M-farm and I-cow are just but a few of the mobile applications created to serve as a platform of sharing weather information, market prices and micro insurance schemes. Using this text-based apps African farmers can now make better farming decisions.


Burundi mobile


With the infinite chances for better connection and communication, citizens have successfully pressured and stirred opposition against discontented regimes. This was clearly witnessed during the Arab  spring of 2011 in north Africa. Mobile phones with social media application like twitter and Facebook have brought about openness and accountability in African governments and made it harder for corrupt officials to perpetrate their vices.


mobile africa


Many higher learning institutions have rolled out e-learning programmes with over 60 percent of students in African universities using internet enabled smartphones.


U.S. entrepreneur and musician Akon spoke at the 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) in Nairobi July 24, 2015. Photo: John Muchucha/Getty


Mobile  Phones have revolutionized the music industry in Africa with creation of online music platforms such as kulahappy, a Kenyan entertainment channel to tap into mobile phone market. Musicians in across Africa are now selling their songs through ringtones .  phone without facebook, twitter and whatsapp don’t easily sells in Africa these days.



Disaster management

Fire fighters hotlines are common everywhere in Africa cities, towns and villages and phones are used to report disasters enabling easy and faster evacuations. NGOs such as Refugee United have partnered with some of the mobile companies in Africa to create a database for refugees which enhances connectivity in case of disappearances.



Surveys and Polling

The collection of data by international development workers through mobile phones have been considered a leap from traditional face-to-face surveys. Tools such as Formhub and Geopoll that conduct surveys using mobile phone tools have been able to capture valuable data across the continent that was not easy to come by before. In some cases, countries such as Uganda have used this technology in developing childbirth and death registry tools through a mobile vital record system(MVRS).


Market Reach

Many mobile phone apps are being developed and used by businesses to reach that their target market. In fact, tech startups, such as OLX, Jovago and Jumia have emerged across the continent to utilize this space. Even smallholder farmers are learning about their produce market via phones using text-based applications like M-Farm and iCow.

Source: Lilian Musso, AFK Insider

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