Cheaper Handsets and Network Investments Boost East Africa

The mobile communications markets of Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda are in their growth stages.

January 14, 2010

The mobile communications markets of Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda are in their growth stages. In 2008, Kenya enjoyed the highest number of active subscribers and revenues among the four countries. Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda are however likely to witness significant growth over the next seven years due to increasing network investments, continuing product innovation and reduced handset costs.

New analysis from Frost & Sullivan (, the growth partnership company, finds that the combined mobile communications markets of Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda earned revenues of $2.62 billion in 2008, and estimates this to reach $8.99 billion in 2015. The technologies covered in this study are code division multiple access (CDMA), global system for mobile communications (GSM), general packet radio service (GPRS), high-speed downlink packet access (HSDPA) and wideband code division multiple access (WCDMA).

“The key drivers in these markets include strong gross domestic product (GDP) growth rates, increasing demand for mobile money transfer services and declining handset costs,” says Frost & Sullivan ICT analyst Jiaqi Sun. “East African consumers are spending more on mobile communications due to the low fixed-line network coverage, underdeveloped banking systems, and the current limited availability of inexpensive handsets.”

Currently, there are 37.6 million mobile subscribers in east Africa, at a penetration rate of 30.8 per cent. The total number of subscribers is expected to reach 99.5 million in 2015, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 14.9 per cent.

“The launching of undersea cables is anticipated to reduce the cost of telecommunications by 60.0 per cent over the next 7 years,” says Sun. “This will boost the demand for mobile Internet access.”

However, there are challenges faced by the market participants such as high tax rates on mobile services, the lack of network rollout in rural areas and the current low demand for data services. Additionally, the demand for data services from corporate clients has dwindled due to the economic downturn.

“Frost & Sullivan expects mobile network operators to enhance their services by continuously investing in infrastructure like call-switching capacity,” Sun says. “This will help in developing innovative solutions like mobile money transfer services, and initiate managed services by outsourcing non-core businesses like network maintenances. These strategies will step-up the demand for mobile services, boosting subscriber and revenue growth.”

If you are interested more information on this study, please send an e-mail to Patrick Cairns, Corporate Communications, at [email protected], with your full name, company name, title, telephone number, company e-mail address, company website, city, state and country.

East African Mobile Communications Markets is part of the Mobile & Wireless Growth Partnership Services programme, which also includes research in the following markets: Southern African Mobile Communications Market, West African Mobile Communications Market, Central African Mobile Communications Market, and Mozambican Mobile Communications Market. All research services included in subscriptions provide detailed market opportunities and industry trends that have been evaluated following extensive interviews with market participants.