Mobile Internet usage rises steeply across Africa

But users turn to TV for trusted news. By 2050, a quarter of the worldwide population will be living in Africa. With the rise of the middle class delivering more buying power within the region than ever before, it’s no surprise that global marketers are trying to understand how best to reach this attractive burgeoning audience.   

You could be forgiven for thinking that brands should bypass traditional media channels and go straight to the new kids on the block.  After all, the rate of mobile penetration is growing exponentially. 

Today, an average 87% of the urban population owns a mobile phone, ranging from a low 83% in Democratic Republic of Congo to a staggeringly high 94% in Mali and Ivory Coast, with more than half that group now being able to access the internet via mobile. 68% of Internet users connect via their phone. 

This high level of usage compared to PC (58%) confirms the African technological leap. In some countries like Gabon or Mali, more than half of Internet users connect exclusively via mobile. However, more than 87% of mobile owners use pre-paid cards, rather than monthly subscriptions. This, combined with low bandwidth, high data costs and feature phones with limited functionalities mean there are still a number of barriers to accessing the Internet via mobile. 

As the continent becomes more and more digitalized, with at least half the population expected to be connected to the Internet by 2025, recent research by TNS, part of Kantar Group, across French-speaking Africa showed that although mobile ownership and internet access is increasing, most of the respondents still rely heavily on TV and radio for information. Over 90% of households own at least one radio receiver and 99% have at least one TV set. Although most people are listening to the radio at home, particularly in the morning, access to radio via FM on mobile is on the rise. 

TV remains highly accessible. With 70% of the population living in capital cities able to view more than 20 TV channels, and a third accessing more than 60 (an increase of 22 percentage points in 5 years), the demand for an active audiovisual landscape in French-speaking Africa is growing. Many new local channels are emerging and there has been an increase in international channels as the continent’s potential becomes clear.  

Not only are 97% of the general population consuming more than 3.5 hours of TV a day, but interestingly, business leaders – generally middle aged, higher educated males – watch two hours more TV than the average person. Almost two thirds of them are able to speak enough English to watch programmes in this language. They have a strong focus on news, particularly international news, compared to the general population whose main interest is music. 

Ninety three percent of this influential and affluent audience watch international TV every day; it is the media they most trust to inform them when any event happens. So why are some advertisers still reticent about using international media campaigns? They can be more cost effective than multi-national campaigns that target multiple countries via a number of channels because there are fewer buying points and less creative is required. 

marketing siteFirst published in The Marketing Site in July 2016