The real mobile revolution has been in Africa

The continent where things have changed the most mobile phones has been Africa, since for millions of people it has meant access to services that are available to everyone in developed countries.

Neither the United States, nor Europe or China, really the one that has had the most impact is the mobile revolution in Africa, the region where the social and economic consequences of mobile devices have been the greatest – and are still being -. This technology has been a great change in many areas, such as microeconomics and even health or agriculture. Not to mention an increase in citizen participation from the freedom of expression that social networks stimulate, which also serve as a loudspeaker for demands that previously had no audience.

Africa’s mobile revolution has been dizzying. From 2000 to 2010 the annual growth rate in the number of mobile users averaged 30%. This does not mean that the continent is populated by smartphones, in fact only 18% of the phones are of this type, the rest are traditional terminals, although smartphone figure it will double in the next four years. But the expansion of these devices has meant access to a series of very useful services.

Perhaps the most decisive change has occurred in financial transactions. In many African countries there are few banks in relation to the number of inhabitants. The rate is very low because the population is sometimes dispersed in rural areas and it is not profitable to establish a branch in depending on which areas, apart from the insecurity that exists in some regions. Perhaps that is why in Kenya what can be considered the world’s most successful mobile payment service, M-PESA, which has 18 million users in a country of 43 million people.

Whereas before the inhabitants of the country were forced to go to a branch, perhaps tens of kilometers distant, to make a transfer, now they do it through sms. The user goes to an authorized M-PESA agent, gives him the corresponding amount and sends the text message, the receiver only has to contact another agent of the company and show him the sms so that he can give him his money.

In Nigeria, which has 120 million mobile users, the startup Pay has started its own mobile payment service and has grown by 847% in its first year of activity. These technologies also allow users access to financial markets, being able to invest or contract a loan. In addition, e-commerce allows you to buy online and collect the products in a single location.

An injection of basic needs

Education, health and agriculture (the base of the economy in many regions) have also improved with the advent of mobile devices. Organizations like Worldreader Y Sorry they are taking advantage of digital content and the facilities that books in this format offer to expand education and reduce illiteracy.

Health is another of the pending subjects. The health system is often very poor and is practically non-existent in the most isolated areas. The service MOTHER (Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action) provides advice on maternity via mobile. In Malawi, a program was launched to measure the biorhythms of patients in rural areas using smartphones.

In the same way that health advice is offered, information on agricultural issues is also provided through mobile phones. Esoko’s mobile messaging service provides real-time information on the price of crops in the markets, as well as weather forecast and other relevant data.

What is a smartphone worth in Africa

What Windows has been for a good part of the world, with respect to the personal computer, smartphones are being for Africa, when it comes to the Internet. And this implies access to information, which is lacking in much of the continent, since populations far from urban centers abound. Thanks to the Network you can get knowledge that nobody taught before nor did he treasure in these places, such as improved cultivation techniques, accessing information on official procedures or communicating with people from other areas.

In some countries we have seen in recent years how social networks, mainly Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, have served to facilitate people’s expression, generating a greater environment of freedom of opinion and dissemination, which in the end has led to the promotion of citizen participation in political life from some parts of Africa. Thanks to these platforms, often accessed through smartphones, it has been easier for entire communities to mobilize, a symptom of social evolution.

Image: whiteafrican / Europarchive