Africa Skips Landlines, Goes Straight To Mobility

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The death of fixed phones is near. But there’s one place on the planet where this is more obvious than anywhere else: Africa. Landlines are almost nowhere to be found south of the Sahara desert, while cell phones are anything but scarce, according to the results of a Pew Research Center survey of seven African nations. But despite the cell phone’s increased popularity in Africa, far less people own a smartphone there than in the United States.

Pew Research has interviewed 7,052 people face-to-face in Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda. They found that almost none of them had a landline / fixed phone. Senegal has the highest rate of landline phones – 6%. The lowest rates were found in Ghana, Nigeria, and Uganda, each with just 1% of the population owning a landline. For comparison, 60% of the homes in the US have a fixed phone.

From no phones to smartphones

The reason is simple. There wasn’t a landline infrastructure to begin with when mobile phones started to become more accessible (and more affordable) in Africa. Perhaps then it is not surprising that cell phones in South Africa and Nigeria are as common as they are in The States. South Africa is the leader of the pack with a 56% increase in ownership since 2002.

In Africa, much like everywhere else in the world, the most commonly used feature of the cell phone is texting (80%). Snapping photos and shooting video take the second place with 53% usage. The third most common usage scenario is, believe it or not, making and receiving payments.

Despite these seemingly impressive numbers, smartphones are still somewhat of a rare commodity in sub-Saharan territories, and only 19% of the mobile web traffic is directed at social networks, according to the research. The young and educated are more likely to own a smartphone. Check out the gallery below for the bigger picture.

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