The COVID-19 pandemic has turned out to be a blessing for Africa’s mobile operators. The continent “recorded 22% YoY growth in mobile broadband subscriptions, reaching 782.6 million at end-2020 and accounting for 66.5% of total mobile subscriptions,” states Omdia in its latest Service Provider Regional Outlook: Africa – 2021.

“High demand for mobile data services saw a 78.9% YoY growth in data traffic to 13,184.4 PB at end-2020, compared to 7,370.6 PB at end-2019” – a significant development in a continent where infrastructure challenges have impacted negatively on data availability.  

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Omdia attributes the growth to “an increase in demand for data services during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

As of December 2020, the total population of Internet users in Africa stands at 634,863,323 million. Nigeria leads with 154.3 million. Next is Egypt with 54.74 million, Kenya with 46.87 million and South Africa takes the fourth position with 34.55 million users.

COVID inspires data growth

According to its latest mobile market update, while COVID-19 sliced off potential subscriptions at the early stage in Q1 and Q2 of 2020, it turned out to become a major push for mobile broadband subscriptions.


According to Omdia, “Africa had nearly 1.2 billion mobile subscriptions and a penetration rate of 88% at end-2020. The region saw a decline in subscription growth rates in 1H20 due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, with 2H20 showing strong growth, pushing the annual growth rate to around 6.8%.

“The region recorded negative growth in mobile revenue in 1H20 due to the

impacts of COVID-19 on the economy, which affected the purchasing


power of the consumers.

“However, the market showed some recovery in 2H20 as most countries put in place necessary measures to contain the pandemic and opened their economies.”

Fixed broadband growing but still low

The Regional Outlook reports that the “fixed broadband segment recorded 18.8% YoY growth in active subscriptions, reaching 27.9 million by end-2020 compared to 23.5 million in 2019.

“In 2020, a 19.6% YoY growth in fixed broadband revenue was recorded,

with strongest growth recorded in 2H20, due to an increase in demand for

home and office broadband services to support remote working and home

schooling and entertainment.”

But the good news is that, “overall, Africa continues to see strong growth in the fixed broadband segment, driven by growth in consumer demand and the increase in the deployment of fiber and fixed wireless broadband (FWB) networks across several countries.

However, the report notes “Africa’s fixed broadband household penetration is significantly lower compared to other regions, hence creating a great investment opportunity for service providers.”

IMAGE: World Bank

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