While reading a friend's copy of Blycroft's latest Africa & Middle East Telecom Week (subscription) I couldn't help noticing substantial growth (25%-26% in 4Q06) in mobile subscribers in two small West African nations, the Republic of Guinea and Sierra Leone. I've never been to either country. Before this, I'd only heard of Guinea as one of the most corrupt nations on earth and I knew of Sierra Leone only because of their extended civil war. Indeed, Transparency International ranks Guinea among the most corrupt countries. And, while the civil war has ended, Sierra Leone remains one of the poorer countries, even in Africa, with a purchase price adjusted (PPP) per capita GDP of $900 per year. But each has seen substantial mobile phone adoption in 2006 and each has increasing mobile competition and thus the prospect of even more adoption in 2007 & beyond. Here's the data from Blycroft.
|Republic of Guinea|
|Celtel Sierra Leone||190,000||195,000||202,000||243,000||20.3%|
|Millicom Sierra Leone||27,651||28,771||28,961||42,055||45.2%|
Mobile adoption in Guinea in 2006 was entirely driven by the introduction of one new competitor, Areeba, owned by Lebanese Investcom which in turn has been acquired by MTN. Teledensity reached 7.3 (per 100 population) at the end of 2006. The good news for 2007 and beyond is that Sonatel (42% owned by France Telecom, i.e. Orange) has acquired the mobile license of Spacetel and plans to have a network operational before the end of 2007. Even if Guinea remains corrupt, an increase in the number of viable competitors is fairly certain to lead to increased mobile phone adoption.
While quite poor and still recovering from decades of civil war, Sierra Leone has had mobile phone competition since 2004 and is now up to five competitors and a teledensity of 8.7.
Both countries have problems but these increasingly competitive mobile markets bode well for the spread of mobile phones and, as I've commented before, mobile phones lead to direct economic benefits for individuals.