According to an article on African mobile economic development published on The Guardian, “for every additional 10 mobile phones per 100 people in a developing country, GDP rises by 0.5%”. This kind of statistic is made visible in the generalised but colourfully animated video below, where the benefits of mobile development are evident- Africa being the fastest growing mobile market in the world.
As discussed in a previous article on the Alaba Market in Lagos, mobile development in Africa has created a variety of different applications, including mobile banking. In several African countries, mobile banking has made transferring money possible without the need for a bank account, by providing the ability to store and transfer money through mobile phones, dedicated ATM’s and kiosks. Kenya’s mobile banking application, M-PESA, recently celebrated its 5th birthday, with an exponential increase from about 19 000 subscribers in 2007 to 15 million this year.
Mobile banking has also been used to aid humanitarian efforts in countries like Niger, where the threat of drought in the “hunger season” makes isolated communities vulnerable to food shortages. The use of mobile banking transfers by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) allows aid organisations to provide funds through the use of mobile phones, although challenges are faced when it comes to illiteracy and reliable cellular infrastructure in more isolated areas, according to this article.
Medical care has also been enhanced in many countries with mobile and online applications. In Kenya, one of the largest growing mobile markets in the continent, mobile applications like MedAfrica provide people with doctors’ contact details and other health related information. In rural areas, where people often have to travel kilometres to the nearest clinic, mobile technology also bridges the gap between doctor and patient, as in Ghana and Liberia, where patients use MDNet to text their doctors for free.
Mobile applications have also been used to support farmers in countries like Uganda, where farmers form part of a collective organisation of Community Knowledge Workers (CKW’s) supported by the Grameen Foundation. The foundation leases out smartphones to Ugandan farmers, thereby equipping them with software and data that assists them in tracking weather patterns and monitoring their crops. For more information about this programme watch this video on The Guardian website.
It is clear that with all these exciting innovations that mobile development is a key factor in changing the lives of people in Africa, and all over the world. Although there are definitely challenges when it comes to sustaining mobile usage in isolated areas, the rate of growth in mobile development on the continent alone is surely an indicator of even greater changes to come, especially considering the growth of independent tech innovation labs across the continent.