The Digital Revolution – or the quest to acquire the next billion mobile users – ventures forward to Africa. In a recent speech, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan urged African nations to work and support new outreach efforts towards a global and ubiquitous future. “African governments must facilitate and support the deployment of the necessary ICT infrastructure required to connect our citizens to each other and the rest of the world, we need to educate our citizens on ICTs and make them digitally literate so they can actively participate in this revolution, we need to encourage the development of our local ICT industries, creating companies to drive added domestic economic value, create jobs and support sustainable growth in GDP,” said President Jonathan.

In 2013, Facebook, along with several other technology companies, launched the non-profit organization – a global partnership hyper-focused on making internet access “100X” more affordable, efficient and productive for two-thirds of the world’s population yet to be connected. This includes not only Africa, but India and similar urban poor countries around the globe. Other tech giants have launched similar initiatives. Google, for example, is also experimenting with making internet more accessible to remote parts of Africa.

We used Visart software to visualize Africa’s digital landscape in 2012 and better understand how Africa is beginning to circumvent inter-connectivity issues via mobile penetration.

African Internet Usage in 2012

In 2012, Google partnered with Basis Research Ltd and surveyed more than 13,000 people in key African urban centers – Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, and Uganda – and released an interactive data set highlighting high-level trends about internet/mobile penetration, along with adoption challenges. Google found that 50% of respondents had ever used the internet, but nearly all in this portion of the sample were early adopters of internet back in 2009; about two-fifths started using the internet before 2008.

Below, the map visualizes the African Development Bank’s data on internet usage in 2012:

Map 1 – Internet users per 1000 inhabitants in 2012


Visart Map: Internet Penetration per 1000 Inhabitants in African Nations (2012)

Most landlocked countries have difficulty setting up ICT infrastructure, due to wildlife, hostile environments, and the lack of internal trade in Africa. This has inspired the tech giants to explore new options for bringing affordable internet to the rising levels of mobile phone users on the continent.

African Mobile Adoption in 2012

Unlike internet usage, mobile phones diffused more rapidly by 2012, with several countries reporting higher indexes per 1000 inhabitants. According to the African Development Bank’s data, the probability of meeting a person with a mobile phone back in 2012 was about 50% or higher. These countries are highlighted green in the map below:

Map 2 – Mobile cellular subscribers per 1000 inhabitants in 2012

Visart Map: Mobile Penetration per 1000 inhabitants in African Nations (2012)

As the decade culminates, companies like Facebook and Google are likely to bring great economic opportunity to third-world countries. For example, in 2009 the World Bank conducted a study of 120 countries, finding that a 10 percentage point increase in mobile penetration resulted in a .8 percent GDP increase.

Currently, the global average internet penetration rate is 42.3%, with Africa well below this average at 26.5%.  As companies, like Nokia and Samsung, continue to lower price points on mobile phones and enable connectivity , there’s no telling how the final frontier will look by the end of the decade.


African Development Bank:

Internet World Stats: