After ending 2016 with 1.4 million unique mobile subscribers, the Gambia has registered 67% mobile penetration, according to a Mobile Economy report on sub-Saharan Africa by the GSM Association (GSMA).
This penetration level has positioned Gambia as the second highest in West Africa region, just below Ghana and one of the top five in sub-Saharan Africa.
The report also stated that subscriber base of Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is still growing faster than any other region and forecasted a compounded annual growth rate of 6.2% five years to 2020, compared to the 4.2% global average for the same period. There will be more than 500 million unique mobile subscribers in the SSA by 2020.
With current smartphone adoption rate of 27.5%,m more peoples in the Gambia are consuming digital content, particularly online videos, via mobile devices. The number of home grown online TV stations and video platforms are also increasing in the country.
These growths for digital content is expected to increase mobile data traffic significantly in the coming years.
For mobile operators, more participation in the digital content value chain could help maximise the benefits from the data traffic growth than just the basic data connection revenue.
In SSA overall, data revenue accounts for less than a fifth of service revenue on average and has come under pressure from the intense price competition in recent years. A similar situation is observed in the Gambia telecommunication industry.
Slowing growth from traditional services expected in the decades to come as most users smartphones increases and subscribers moves to alternative platforms such as IP messaging.
Mobile operators need to implement new strategies to drive growth and ensure the long-term sustainability. These include the consolidation and revenue stream diversification into the area of mobile money platform or IoT services.
Opportunities in the Gambia mobile industry
The mobile platform connects more people globally than any other technology. This a fact, even more in the Gambia where mobile internet is the only form of connectivity available to most users.
This vast reach of mobile networks has made mobile technology the preferred platform for creating, distributing and consuming digital content and services across the globe.
Therefore, there is an opportunity for mobile operators and start-ups to explore more ways to work together to advance the digital economy in the Gambia.
To achieve this, however, mobile operators need to increase their engagement with the Gambia start-ups and establish the right relationship, with the appropriate resources for collaboration. The start-ups ecosystem also need to build a robust business value proposal for collaboration, thereby reflecting each on party’s strengths and needs, and the potential for mutual benefit.
A large percentage of the Gambians rural areas still lack access to the basic services such as health care, electricity, clean water and financial services. However, mobile technology has emerged as a tool to extend these critical services to the underserved communities. It is an opportunity to expand services such as mobile money to increase financial inclusion or adopt platforms such as Pay-As-You-Go (PAYG) to supply clean solar energy system.
For example, in Uganda Fenix International ReadyPay Solar operates through a mobile-enabled PAYG model, which allows customers to pay for solar products in instalments over a period of up to 36 months (for example, customers pay $0.15 per day over 36 months for an entry level solar home system valued at $160). The micro payments, which are facilitated by MTN Mobile Money, make the products affordable for low-income families.
Nonetheless, if Gambian is to benefit from their opportunities, the regulators such as a central bank, PURA, Competition commission have to adapt to changing conditions. These policymakers have to implement reforms that will protect competition and consumers without impeding social and economic progress.
The GSMA represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide, uniting nearly 800 operators with almost 300 companies in the broader mobile ecosystem, including handset and device makers, software companies, equipment providers and internet companies, as well as organisations in adjacent industry sectors. The GSMA also produces industry-leading events such as Mobile World Congress, Mobile World Congress Shanghai, Mobile World Congress Americas and the Mobile 360 Series of conferences.
Note to readers: Above analysis are based on the GSMA Sub-Saharan Africa and West Africa report 2017.