Digital technologies are having a profound impact on the way people live, work, play and communicate. This is especially true in Sub-Saharan Africa where such technologies increasingly provide access to life-enhancing services for individuals and communities that would otherwise be excluded, due to infrastructure, skills and funding shortages. Key trends in the region’s digital landscape, including a youthful demographic and the increasing digital disruption of industries, point to growing demand for next-generation connectivity.
It is universally accepted that high-speed, reliable and robust network infrastructure is critical to the growth of the digital economy. In Sub-Saharan Africa, ongoing investment in 3G and 4G networks underscores the mobile industry’s contribution to the advancement of the digital economy in the region. However, the world today is on the cusp of the 5G era. Indeed, the transition to 5G has already begun in several countries across the world, with commercial launches in 2018 and 2019. As digital trends in Sub-Saharan Africa point to growing demand for enhanced connectivity, what role will 5G play in the future connectivity landscape?
Building on insights from a survey of key local stakeholders, including policymakers, mobile operators and equipment vendors, this report establishes the outlook and expectations for the 5G era in Sub-Saharan Africa. While 5G is inevitable, given that it is a natural progression from previous technology generations, it is not imminent in most markets in the region as existing technologies are capable of supporting current use cases and demand for mobile internet connectivity. For all countries in the region, market readiness is necessary to determine the timing for the transition to 5G. This will help maximise value from 5G services for consumers, operators and the wider society.
The GSMA 5G Market Readiness Index indicates that some countries are moving quickly towards a state of readiness, with 4G adoption approaching mass market and operators progressing with network modernisation initiatives. The 2020s will see 5G-related activities become more widespread across the region from mid-way through the decade. By 2025, there will be commercial 5G services in at least seven markets, including Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa, with 28 million 5G connections (equivalent to 3% of total mobile connections) between them.