The GSMA reports that, as of March 2017, there were 97 LTE networks in 39 countries across sub-Saharan Africa.

As great as that figure is having access to LTE mobile broadband isn’t exactly helpful if you don’t have a device -like a smartphone – to take advantage of said network.

Traditionally the cost of smartphones has served as a barrier to access for a number of Africans, but a new partnership might just change that.

Allied Mobile, a South African based cellular product distributor, has today announced that it will be partnering with US firm PayJoy to bring affordable smartphones to Africans even if they do not have access to credit.

How does it do that? Facebook.

We’re not even joking here.

PayJoy has been operating in the US since 2015 and has expanded to Latin America, Asia and Africa is next on the cards. Customers apply for a smartphone using their Facebook profile, ID and phone number at a brick and mortar store.

If approved the customer can then select the payment terms that work for them (weekly and monthly terms are available) and once the payments are complete the handset is yours

Why Facebook? According to this report from Voice of America, PayJoy believes that (with its own research to back it up) a Facebook profile is a good way of verifying a person’s identity.

Locked out

Should a user not make a payment per the arrangement with PayJoy, the firm reserves the right to lock the phone.

Users are still able to see that they are being messaged, can still contact emergency services and contact PayJoy support, but the handset will only unlock once the scheduled payment has been made.

The one sticking point we foresee is the amount of interest PayJoy charges for handsets, which can be as high as 50 percent in some instances.

This interest is, of course, based on reports from the US so that may not be the case here in Africa. We’ll be sure to update you as the service comes closer to its local launch.

This is an interesting solution to the problem which finds some Africans unable to get credit through traditional means. Whether or not purchasing a smartphone this way will be more affordable remains to be see, but we are hopeful.