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It is the biggest economic success story in Africa. The growth of mobile telephony is phenomenal – in numbers, in jobs created and in the economic development it is driving. African software engineers are pioneering the development of payment systems over mobile telephones, first in Kenya, then Rwanda and South Africa, and now Nigeria. Until the late 1990s, few mobile phone operators regarded Africa as a viable mass market. They lacked accurate information about the continent’s spending power and a vision of how services could be developed. Initially, most companies – except for South Africa’s MTN – steered clear of Nigeria (AC Vol 43 No 20, Scrambling for Africa). Now it is one of the world’s biggest telecommunications markets

Between 1998 and 2008, the number of mobile phone subscribers in Africa increased from 4 million to 260 million while network coverage increased from 10% to over 60% of the continent. Call prices fell from an average of US$0.30 per minute to $0.10 per minute. More than $36 billion was invested in the telecoms sector, mostly by governments, according to the World Bank. Today, more than 350 million Africans – 30% of the continent’s population – have mobiles.

(This article contains approximately 1592 words)

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