Is Africa Catching Up To Europe And The US In Smartphones?

Look at any American or European tech site or blog and it's easy to see just how essential cell phones are in those countries. Virtually every person in the United States and Western Europe owns at least a cellphone with most of those specifically being smartphones.

When it comes to the nations of Africa, the story is a little different but the gap between the two sides is shrinking at an incredible. So, as of 2023, what's the current state of smartphone usage across Africa and what does the future look set to bring?

The Usage As It Stands

We should start with the most stunning statistic out there from recent years. Back in 2013, just 10 years ago, the number of smartphones registered in all of Sub-Saharan Africa was around 48 million. That number as of 2023 is now around 450 million, quickly approaching a 10-times increase over the decade.

Is Africa Catching Up To Europe And The US In Smartphones?

Apple, Samsung, plus a number of smaller producers have all made their devices more readily available in the region, many of which come at price points that better match local economies. Samsung remains the most popular brand across the continent with around a third of all devices with Apple behind at only around half of that. Producers of more 'budget' devices like Huawei and Tecno have a large presence as well.

Africans have also gradually embraced the world of apps as more have been produced specifically to their needs and tastes. There are communication apps, Africa-specific streaming apps like iROKOtv, and a number of apps that cater to groups like the online gaming industry with bonuses and extras for players of games like Aviator in Zambia, Ethiopia, Nigeria, and more. These kinds of entertainment apps are a growing market within some African nations such as South Africa and many titles are now produced 'locally' in terms of the continent, whether that's casino or regular video game apps.

An African Future for Smartphones?

Currently, only a small percentage of smartphone apps used in Africa are created locally. For the hardware, there have been attempts at creating home-grown smartphone producers such as Mara in Rwanda, but the vast majority of local companies claiming African production have proven to just import devices from Asia and rebrand them.

The area where African contributions to the market may be strongest is on the software side. With some global apps like WhatsApp and Instagram proving unreliable in recent years, there has been a push to create local alternatives. Already popular apps in circulation include SlimTrader, which can allow online payments via an SMS system, and MedAfrica, which is a helpful self-diagnosis tool designed for regions where the doctor-to-patient ratio is particularly low.

Is Africa Catching Up To Europe And The US In Smartphones?

Given that app development has never been easier with tons of free online tutorials, we're expecting to see a number of new projects coming out in the next few years. Countries such as Ethiopia and Nigeria are already investing heavily in the industry and South Africa has become the development hub of the continent.

With usage numbers expected to jump massively in the coming years and many new entrepreneurs on the horizon, expect Africa to become an even bigger smartphone market very soon.
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