EAC achieves 100pc mobile penetration, beats Africa


East African countries have achieved 100 percent mobile penetration at 199.7 million subscribers, ahead of Africa’s 92 percent but short of the globe’s 111 percent as of the close of last year.

Fresh data from the East African Communications Organisation (EACO) indicates that the regional penetration growth for the year ended last December outpaced both the average of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Africa region as well as the global average which moved 10 and four percentage points respectively.

In its regional sector report for 2023 published last week, EACO further indicated that the region’s mobile internet subscriptions stood at 61 percent penetration with the annual internet traffic hitting 2.9 billion gigabytes.

The regional average for third-generation (3G) coverage rose from 71 percent to 78 percent with Kenya and Rwanda leading with almost universal coverage at 97 percent and 99 percent respectively. Fourth generation (4G) on the other hand, expanded its regional coverage from 52 percent to 62 percent where Kenya and Rwanda again led the way with close to or exceeding 97 percent.

At the same time, mobile data prices in the region were found to have fallen significantly over the three years to last year, further accelerating the adoption of mobile services.

“The influx of low-cost smartphones from Chinese manufacturers has made mobile phones more accessible to a wider population. Increased competition among mobile network operators and government interventions have also driven down data costs, making internet access more affordable.”

According to EACO, innovations such as Kenya’s M-Pesa have partly contributed to the penetration growth due to their heavy reliance on mobile telephony services.

The report indicates that mobile money subscribers in the region stood at 128.7 million, reflecting a 64 percent penetration rate.

In Kenya, the latest Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) data shows that the total number of mobile phone devices connected to mobile networks stood at 65.7 million as of the end of March, translating to a 127.5 percent penetration rate.

During the three months to last March, Kenyan dumped the active use of 628,818 feature phones in favour of smartphones whose uptake grew by 886,884 gadgets within the same period.