700m sub-Sahara Africans denied mobile Internet services

Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), some months back discovered that some 200 communities in Nigeria hosting about 40 million people, still lacked access to basic telephone services.

• Spend 10% of monthly income on phone, data
• Over 40 million still lack access in Nigeria

Of the about a billion people in the sub-Sahara Africa (SSA), 700 million of the population still lack access to mobile Internet services.

The Global System for Mobile Communications Association (GSMA) in an intelligence study, noted that though more than 420 million people, representing 43 per cent of the population in SSA subscribed to mobile services as at the end of 2016, 700 million people are missing on the mobile Internet radar.

Already, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), some months back discovered that some 200 communities in Nigeria hosting about 40 million people, still lacked access to basic telephone services. This is despite the about 241 million connected lines, of which 139 million are active. The Internet population in the country as at July stood at 91.4 million.

The intelligence study titled: “Taxing mobile connectivity in Sub-Saharan Africa: A review of mobile sector taxation and its impact on digital inclusion,” disclosed this, saying most countries in sub-Saharan Africa face a significant digital divide.

The report attributed affordability and coverage as the main significant barrier militating against mobile Internet connectivity in the region, which contributed an estimated 7.7 per cent to its GDP and supported 3.5 million jobs in 2016.

This is worrying as mobile connectivity is a critical enabler of economic and social development, which will ultimately help to promote digital inclusion and support the delivery of essential services and key development objectives.

The Intelligence study also discovered that the total cost of mobile ownership (TCMO) for purchasing a handset and 500 MB of data per month represents on average 10 per cent of monthly income, well above the five per cent threshold recommended by the United Nations Broadband Commission.

The study, which covers 27 countries in the region where data is available, noted that high prices have the most adverse impact on those on lower incomes, who are to benefit the most from access to mobile technologies.

A further breakdown shows the cost of an equivalent basket as a share of income is 25 per cent for those in the bottom 40 per cent income group, reaching as high as 68 per cent in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

It also stated that taxation represents 22 per cent of the TCMO, while sector-specific taxes represent 5 per cent of the TCMO on average. “In certain countries, the level of taxation on mobile ownership represents more than five per cent of monthly income, making the service unaffordable – without even considering the price of the device and service.”

Meanwhile, taxation levied on mobile, especially over and above standard rates, is exacerbating affordability and coverage barriers for the underserved in the Sub-Saharan Africa region. Many cannot afford to access mobile services, especially those at the bottom of the income pyramid.



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