About three in 10 people in the Middle East and Africa are mobile phone users, eMarketer estimates, but research suggests most are not connecting with the latest wireless technologies.
Africa made up just 1% of 4G LTE mobile connections worldwide in June 2016, according to a report from Ovum and 5G Americas. The Middle East accounts for an additional 3% of worldwide 4G LTE connections. For comparison, eMarketer estimates that 10.3% of all mobile phone users in the world reside in the Middle East and Africa this year, including 6.9% in sub-Saharan Africa and 3.4% in the Middle East and North Africa.
Fast mobile broadband connections like 4G LTE tend to translate to mobile internet usage—and eMarketer’s estimates confirm that despite mobile phone penetration rates around 30% across the region, internet reach is still lower. In the Middle East and North Africa, 29.2% of individuals are internet users—close to the figure for mobile phone penetration, in an area where the share of worldwide LTE connections is fairly close to the share of mobile phone users overall. But in sub-Saharan Africa, just 16.9% of people use the internet, meaning at least around half of mobile phone users in the area do not have a mobile internet connection.
2015 research from GSMA put mobile penetration, and mobile internet penetration, significantly higher in certain countries. Consumers in Morocco, for example, were more likely to have mobile internet access than their counterparts across North Africa. Nearly 50% of those surveyed in Morocco had access to the mobile internet, while the regional average was 33%.
Just 27% of consumers in Morocco said they had no mobile access at all, lower than the regional average of 37%.
Nearly 40% of consumers in Algeria said they had mobile internet access in 2015. Consumers in places like Egypt and Sudan less often had mobile access; about a quarter of consumers said so, while nearly 60% of those in Sudan said they had no mobile access at all.
In North Africa, eMarketer breaks out mobile phone penetration rates only for Egypt, where we estimate 73.5% of the population owns and uses a mobile phone on at least a monthly basis this year. Within sub-Saharan Africa, we estimate penetration is highest in South Africa (73.3%), followed by Kenya (62.4%) and Ghana (45.2%).