GSMA Addresses Barriers to Mobile Internet Connectivity in Africa at MWC Kigali 2023

Day Two of the MWC Kigali saw discussions on breaking barriers to mobile internet access and key reports launched.

Day Two of the conference commenced with a media roundtable titled “Breaking Barriers: Closing the Usage Gap,” building on the recent launch of the 2023 State of Mobile Internet Connectivity Report and insights shared at the Handset Affordability Summit from Day One. Led by GSMA experts Angela Wamola, Head of Sub-Saharan Africa and Max Cuvellier, Head of Mobile for Development at the GSMA. Both were joined by Saint Doe, Chief Consumer and Digital Officer at MTN Rwanda. The roundtable delved into the key barriers to mobile internet penetration and offered unique insights on strategies to overcome these barriers and facilitate greater connectivity for people. The roundtable was bookended by the GSMA and MTN signing a We Care Letter of Intent to implement programs across the Sub-Saharan Africa ecosystem to improve the state of mobile connectivity in the region.

The GMSA is publishing five reports during MWC Kigali 2023, each filled with research, insights and case studies delving into pertinent issues affecting connectivity levels and mobile internet usage across the continent. The reports seek to recommend measures for industry-wide changes that must be made to achieve a truly digital Africa.

In addition to the annual Mobile Economy in Sub-Saharan Africa 2023 Report, other reports that will launch during the event include:

5G in Africa 2023

The 5G in Africa report was launched on Day 2 during the 5G Summit. The report shows that 5G is currently at a nascent stage in Africa, with the adoption rate being around 1% of total connections. This is expected to grow to 8% by 2026. However, for 5G development to continue to grow, 5G spectrum assignment in the region must be managed correctly. The report shares how Africa can continue to advance in its 5G journey, and why advancing 5G is important to the region’s continued digital transformation goals.

Mobile Tax Policy and Digital Development

The Mobile Tax Policy and Digital Development report revealed the role mobile sector taxation is playing in the usage and coverage gaps across Africa. It shows that taxes on consumers and operators are directly affecting the affordability of mobile devices and services. Taxes currently make up 21% of the cost of a basic internet-enabled handset on average. Working with international organisations such as the World Bank and the IMF, the GSMA makes a series of tax-based recommendations that could help countries in Sub-Saharan Africa balance the competing objectives of raising government revenues while minimising the distortive impacts of taxation on digital development.

Universal Service Funds

The Universal Service Funds (USF) report includes research from the GSMA and ATU on the effectiveness of USFs in Africa. It shows that at least 51 of the 54 countries across the region have introduced, or are in the process of introducing, the USF mechanism as a means to deploy mobile broadband infrastructure in commercially unviable areas.

The report reveals an increasing use of USFs for non-infrastructure projects across the region, albeit with a lack of a systemic approach to these initiatives. It therefore argues for industry-wide collaboration to define uniform rationale, scope, success measures and performance evaluation mechanisms to guide efforts to use USFs for non-infrastructure projects.

Tech Neutrality Report

The GSMA also published a report on Tech Neutrality. The report will look at the challenges the Sub-Saharan Africa region faces in its clean energy transition.

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