Africa has been the fastest growing market worldwide in communication technology over the past three years and will continue to emerge as an important market for the industry, according to the head of the United Nations International Telecommunication Union (ITU).
Speaking at the opening of a major trade fair for the African telecommunications industry today in Cairo, Hamadoun Touré, Secretary-General of the ITU, said the African information and communication technologies industry “is an exciting place to be. Market liberalization continues and most countries have established regulatory bodies to ensure a fair, competitive and enabling environment.” The trade fair, called “ITU Telecom Africa,” was inaugurated by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
A report released today by the ITU said that growth in Africa’s mobile telephone sector had “defied all predictions.” Africa had 65 million new subscribers in 2007 alone and mobile phone penetration has risen from just one in 50 people in 2000 to one third of the population today. Mobile phone use is now more evenly distributed across the continent. At the beginning of the century South Africa accounted for over half of all Africa’s subscribers, but by last year almost 85 per cent were in other countries.
But the report also says that growth in Internet access has not kept pace. In 2007 it is estimated there were some 50 million Internet users in Africa, about one person in 20. In sub-Saharan Africa only 3 per cent of the population is online. The average monthly Internet subscription is almost $50, close to 70 per cent of average per capita income.
Around 200 companies from 45 countries are exhibiting products at the trade fair which has attracted some 70 heads of international companies and 50 government ministers. ITU Telecom Africa runs until Wednesday.
The ITU coordinates global use of the radio spectrum, promotes international cooperation on assigning satellite orbits, works to improve telecommunication infrastructure in the developing world and establishes worldwide standards to foster seamless interconnection between a wide range of communications systems.