Since September 2014, mobile subscriptions in Africa grew by 10% with 386 million subscribers recorded, according to the GSMA Mobile Economy Africa 2015 report released today at the GSMA Mobile 360 Conference in Cape Town.

This number grew from 329 million in June last year and is expected to add 135 million more subscribers to reach 518 million by 2020. The report also revealed that there are over 160 million connected smartphones in Africa.

Mobile penetration rates in two of the most populous countries in the region, Ethiopia and Nigeria, stand at 23% and 31% respectively. These two countries alone, with a combined population of almost 300 million, will account for 40% of the total number of new subscribers in the region in 2020.

“The region’s subscriber base recorded the fastest growth during the first half of this decade, with a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 13% compared to the global CAGR of 6% over the same period,” the report stated.

Africa overtook Latin America in terms of unique subscribers last year to become the third biggest region in the globe, behind Asia Pacific and Europe, and now accounts for 10% of the global subscriber base.

The mobile subscribers penetration rate is predicted to reach 49% of the continent’s population by 2020 compared to the global average that’s expected to reach of almost 60%.

Existing barriers that slow subscriber growth, such as cost, coverage, technical literacy and confidence for a large number of the population, especially in rural areas, need to be effectively tackled if we are to narrow this gap significantly in the next four years, the GSMA said.

[Source – GSMA Mobile Economy Africa 2015, image – Worldreader]