How are Mobile Phones Changing Africa?
There’s no doubt that mobile phones have changed the way we live. For lots of us, our use of mobiles has impacted the way we communicate, shop, game and more. But where have mobile phones made the biggest impact? The answer is Africa, where mobile phones are revolutionising the way people interact with their environment and live their daily lives.
Mobile phones are a lifeline in Africa. In many parts of sub-Saharan Africa, mobile phones are easier to access than electricity. Kenya and Egypt have African’s largest mobile network operators. Mobile phones are the main way the majority of people access the internet as it is cheaper, faster and more accessible than computers. Mobile phones can be shared, prepaid, and billed in seconds rather than minutes, making them as cheap and as accessible as possible. The commonality and readiness of mobile phones have made Africa an innovative continent, with people solving real problems with mobile phones.
Of course, Africa is a continent that is hugely diverse and not every country has access to all these services. It is important not to group Africa as a whole, as the difference between and even within countries can be hugely varied.
Before mobile phones, obtaining insurance if Africa wasn’t easy. This was mainly due to cost and availability, making accidents expensive. With labouring jobs being one of the most common types of job in Africa, it is important for people to be able to get access to insurance. How do they do this? Via their mobile phones. People can get insurance on their mobiles instantly through companies such as MicroEnsure’s Fearless Health which was first used in Kenya. The company provides free basic life, accident and hospital insurance via mobile phone to many of its customers, through partnerships with mobile network operators. MicroEnsure’s Fearless Health is an example of how providers can approach health insurance for low-income families and now has over fifty million registered users in fifteen countries across Africa.
Mobile Learning (M-Learning):
There are a vast amount of children who have no access to education in Africa, and those who do can suffer from inadequate teaching. M-learning platforms connect via mobile phones and tablets provide resources for teacher training as well as pupil learning. Mobile learning means that children in rural areas have access to education, and with the development of cheap smartphones and data it will only get more accessible. M-learning also tackles the issue of textbook availability as they can be accessed online.
Companies such as M-Shule help improve the performance of primary school students across Kenya and Sub-Saharan Africa. M-Shule aims to make it easier and affordable for children in Sub-Saharan Africa to follow a personalised path to success and higher education. It is Africa’s first adaptive learning platform available to students through SMS (short messaging service).
Most students own a mobile phone with free SMS, which is used for sending and receiving instant short lessons, multiple-choice quizzes and audio recordings. This increase in availability to education means it is no longer only the most affluent urban families that can send their children to school, and with more education comes better opportunities for everyone, such as higher education.
There is a significant lack of doctors and healthcare professionals in Africa, in relation to the number of patients. To help this problem, people can now use their mobile phones to talk to doctors at any time for healthcare advice and guidance, all for free. Peek Vision have adapted a smartphone camera that takes retinal pictures to help diagnose vision problems without the need to visit an optician in person. Vula Mobile allows healthcare workers to share results with on-call specialists. This means patients can get quick and efficient specialist care from doctors who don’t need to be physically present or even in the same country to help people. These mobile healthcare services mean that more people have access to healthcare advice and services, even in remote locations all thanks to mobile phones.
Adapting for the Market:
Mobile phones in Africa can provide life-changing and life-saving services. These listed above are just a few that are revolutionising Africa. Despite the readiness of mobile phones, a lot of services cannot be used without the Internet. Internet access has become increasingly available across Africa and prices have dropped significantly in recent years, opening up its availability and therefore the services that come with it. However, internet speeds are often slow and unreliable, especially in rural areas where the internet can drop out for hours at a time. To overcome this, mobile phones companies such as Tecno and app developers have created products that run off slower internet speeds and use less data, overall making them cheaper and quicker to use.
Tecno and companies making tablets for M-learning have also adapted their products specifically for the African market. They have made them more robust so they can withstand hot and dusty conditions. As well as this, Tecno phones have a longer battery life so require less charging which is beneficial and cheaper for families who have limited electricity access or for those who have to charge their phones at shops.
What does this mean?
When thinking about expanding into Africa, it is important not to by-pass the huge significance mobile phones have on the lives of Africans. Over time the services available to Africans via their mobile phones will only become more accessible, applicable, usable and reliable meaning the demand for online services will increase. It is quickly changing how people are living daily. Knowing how these impact upon people's interaction with their environment should change the way companies operate, produce and market their products/ services in Africa’s growing mobile phone continent. This is an example of how having a holistic view on the infrastructure, environment and economy is important to understanding a market as a whole.
If you’d like to know and understand more about how your customers interact with their environment, what this means for your company, and how to adapt to get the most from your expansion or current growth, get in touch.