South Africa leads in mobile application downloads in the sub-Saharan Africa market as consumers in Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya race to catch up, says an international organisation.
The GSM Association (GSMA) revealed in its ‘Mobile Economy Report for Sub-Saharan Africa 2015’ report – which was released in Cape Town this week – that as mobile broadband penetration increases, consumers are turning to mobile apps.
“Social networking and instant messaging apps from global internet players are very popular among smartphone users in the region,” the GSMA said.
According to market tracker App Annie, WhatsApp is the top downloaded application in SA, followed by Facebook Messenger, Facebook and Instagram.
However, the growth in smartphones has spurred a local industry that is racing to build relevant applications.
“There is growing interest from local consumers in home-grown apps. Several popular local apps have originated from South Africa and Nigeria, and are now gaining traction in other countries in the region,” said the GSMA.
As more people use applications, the GSMA expects e-commerce in sub-Saharan Africa to expand rapidly.
“Mobile commerce will be central to the evolution of the digital commerce market in Sub-Saharan Africa, as the majority of internet users in the region will access the web through mobile devices.”
Mobile operators and brick and mortar retailers in SA have moved to take advantage of the expansion of mobile e-commerce or m-commerce.
Vodacom [JSE:VOD] and MTN [JSE:MTN] are promoting their mobile money platforms and retailers such as Shoprite [JSE:SHP], Pick n Pay [JSE:PWK] and Massmart [JSE:MSM]-owned Game and Makro are actively pushing consumers to use their e-commerce enabled platforms.
While mobile is expected to connect 518 million people in sub-Saharan Africa by 2020, the GSMA warned that significant barriers to adoption still exist.
“Despite the significant progress, six out of ten people in the region will still be unconnected by 2020, with sub-Saharan Africa continuing to lag well behind the global average.”