Policy Leaders Forum

The AfricaWeWant needs affordable smartphones: accelerating adoption and scale


Tue, 17 Oct: 13:30 - 16:40 CAT

By Invitation Only


The Square, Extension Building


Session Description

The Africa Policy Leaders Forum is an invitation-only event. 

Africa continues to experience exponential growth in internet access, and this is because, mobile broadband connectivity offers the opportunity to unlock new pathways for rapid economic growth, innovation, job creation and access to services which would have been unimaginable only a decade ago. This addresses some of the unique challenges in the region such as unemployment of the youth that many governments continue to seek solutions for considering Africa has the youngest population in the world with a median age of about 19 .

However, despite this great progress, there is a looming predicament in Africa as demonstrated in the below figure where according to the GSMA only 25% of the total population is connected to the Internet while 74% remain unconnected especially the rural population, women, and the youth. The majority of the unconnected are in the Sub-Saharan Africa region with an average of 78% unconnected.


State of Mobile broadband connectivity in Africa


The digital divide is widening and Africa will be left behind in the 4th industrial revolution era, if we cannot scale smartphone adoption. The affordability of handsets and data, and a lack of literacy and digital skills are the most cited barriers to mobile internet adoption and use. There have been several initiatives by different stakeholders in the region aimed at addressing device affordability such as:

- Device financing partnerships, for example MTN Rwanda & Bank of Kigali, in the launch of a Device Financing Program dubbed 'Macye Macye' and Safaricom & Google, introducing a smartphone device financing plan dubbed Lipa Mdogo Mdogo.

- launch of local manufactory/assembly in countries such as Uganda , Rwanda and Kenya considering the same.

- device subsidy initiative by World Bank in Rwanda

Despite these interventions, Sub-Saharan Africa still has the least affordable handsets across low- and middle-income countries. According to a consumer survey conducted by GSMA affordability continues to be the key barrier to broadband adoption in the countries surveyed and more precisely affordability of smart devices stands out as the main barrier.



















Pragmatic action needs to be taken to enable inclusive connectivity in Africa and ensure that digital transformation doesn't exacerbate existing inequalities, with a vision to leave no one offline.

During this session, we seek to understand what it will take to further reduce the cost of smart devices, review the willingness and ability of our African population to be transformed to digital citizens


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