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The Sub-Saharan Africa telecoms market: trends and forecasts 2018–2023

Telecoms operators in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) are increasingly focused on developing and monetising data services as the growth of legacy services starts to slow down and consumers increasingly adopt digital services. This report presents Analysys Mason's core forecasts for the region, analyses the key trends and assesses their impact during the next 5 years.

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Table of contents:

Executive summary and recommendations

Telecoms revenue will grow to USD46.2 billion with a CAGR of 1.5% between 2018 and 2023, amidst affordability, regulatory and macroeconomic challenges

The positive growth in telecoms retail revenue will be largely proportional to the economic growth across SSA, except in Ghana, Nigeria and Sudan

Geographical coverage: we model 11 telecoms markets, which will account for 69.4% of SSA’s overall telecoms service revenue in 2023

Key trends, drivers and assumptions for the mobile and fixed markets

Key recommendations for telecoms operators

Regional forecasts and cross-country comparison

Market context: the 11 countries modelled provided 50.7% of the total population in SSA and 68.4% of its telecoms service revenue in 2017

Key mergers, acquisitions and market entries

Key drivers at a glance for each Sub-Saharan Africa market

Market overview: mobile and fixed data services will drive revenue growth but mobile voice will continue to be a key contributor to service revenue

Mobile: 3G will become the predominant technology in SSA, while 4G will account for 16.9% of mobile connections in 2023; 5G is expected to launch in 2020

Mobile: penetration will increase in most countries, driven by improved coverage and competition, but growth will slow down due to declining multi-SIM levels

Mobile: spending on non-voice services will help to slow down the ARPU decline in most countries in SSA; ARPU in Sudan will increase due to inflation

Mobile: SIM penetration growth rates will drop to single digits in most markets despite the sustained demand for mobile services

Fixed: wireless access will contribute the largest share of broadband revenue, but fibre will have the highest growth rate

Fixed: South Africa continues to lead in terms of fixed broadband penetration in the region thanks to its developed infrastructure and level of competition

Fixed: increased popularity of wireless services will cause fixed broadband revenue to fall, while the growth of NGA will help to stabilise ASPU over the next 5 years

Fixed: fixed broadband services offer strong growth opportunities from a small base but they will remain inaccessible to the majority of the region’s population

Business services: enterprise revenue is small, but is growing more rapidly in Sub-Saharan Africa than in other regions

IoT: cellular M2M revenue growth will be substantial, but connectivity revenue will remain small

Pay TV: the overwhelming majority of the pay-TV market will be split between satellite and pay-DTT platforms

Individual country forecasts

Ghana: non-voice services, including mobile money, will help to boost revenue despite the modest growth in the number of SIMs

Ghana: reluctance to acquire spectrum will limit adoption of LTE, and fixed broadband will benefit from fibre network deployments

Ghana: growth in the number of mobile connections will be modest, but a growing demand for data, financial services and fibre will boost revenue

Ghana: we have revised the market ARPU to reflect MTN’s new way of reporting active subscribers, resulting in a more optimistic growth outlook

Kenya: the mobile market has potential for growth, and cable’s popularity and fibre deployments will support the fixed market revenue growth

Kenya: the accelerated adoption of 4G will drive traffic growth; cable will lose its dominant position in the fixed broadband market to fibre

Kenya: there are solid revenue growth prospects for mobile money and data services; fixed broadband adoption will benefit from better access

Kenya: there is a more optimistic outlook for fibre services thanks to recent deployments and a stronger than expected take-up

Nigeria: difficult economic conditions will continue to affect the telecoms market in terms of investment and spend

Nigeria: increased 4G coverage and improved smartphone affordability will support the demand for data services

Nigeria: there is room for mobile revenue growth despite the crowded market; fibre will represent a third of fixed broadband connections by 2023

Nigeria: the forecast for the number of mobile connections has been adjusted to take into consideration MTN’s restatement of its subscribers

South Africa: service revenue will grow with a modest CAGR of 1.0% between 2018 and 2023, driven by handset data and fixed broadband

South Africa: there will be sustained growth in the mobile market thanks to a strengthening economy and the fixed market will benefit from investment

South Africa: improved rural network coverage will help the number of mobile connections to grow, and investment will boost broadband take-up

South Africa: the entry of 4G player Rain in 2017 has compelled us to reassess the prediction for the number of fixed and mobile 4G connections

Tanzania: service revenue will reach TZS3.0 trillion in 2023, and more than 40.9% of this will be from mobile handset data

Tanzania: the newly awarded 700MHz band for 4G usage will help to improve coverage and access to high-speed mobile data services

Tanzania: the mobile market offers growth opportunities despite competition, while the fixed market will benefit from investment

Tanzania: the fixed broadband market outlook is stronger, but the revenue for mobile voice interconnect is reduced due to a new MTR glide path

Uganda: mobile handset data and fixed broadband services will help to grow the service revenue to almost UGX3.5 trillion by 2023

Uganda: 4G services will be adopted slowly because of a lack of affordability, limited network coverage and low smartphone penetration

Uganda: there are opportunities for moderate mobile revenue growth, but fixed broadband holds more potential

Uganda: we have increased our forecast for the number of fixed broadband connections, and have reduced the postpaid share of mobile connections


Our forecast model is supported by sound market knowledge

Examples of forecast input drivers

Key drivers at a glance table: methodology

About the author and Analysys Mason

About the author

Analysys Mason’s consulting and research are uniquely positioned

Research from Analysys Mason

List of figures:

Figure 1: Telecoms and pay-TV retail revenue by type and total service revenue, Sub-Saharan Africa, 2013–2023
Figure 2: Growth in both telecoms retail revenue and nominal GDP by country, Sub-Saharan Africa, 2017–2023
Figure 3: 4G/5G share of mobile connections and next-generation access (NGA) share of fixed broadband connections by country, Sub-Saharan Africa, 2017 and 20231
Figure 4: Summary of key trends, drivers and assumptions for Sub-Saharan Africa
Figure 5: Metrics for the 11 countries modelled individually in Sub-Saharan Africa, 2017
Figure 6: Recent and upcoming market structure changes in Sub-Saharan Africa
Figure 7: Major forecast drivers: current situation (2017) and future trajectory (2018–2023), by country, Sub-Saharan Africa
Figure 8: Total fixed and mobile telecoms service revenue, Sub-Saharan Africa (USD billion), 2013–2023
Figure 9: Mobile connections by type, Sub-Saharan Africa (million), 2013–2023
Figure 10: Telecoms retail revenue and growth rate by service type, Sub-Saharan Africa, 2013–2023
Figure 11: Fixed connections by type, Sub-Saharan Africa (million), 2013–2023
Figure 12: Mobile connections by generation, Sub-Saharan Africa (million), 2013–2023
Figure 13: Mobile ARPU by type, Sub-Saharan Africa (USD per month), 2013–2023
Figure 14: Contract share of mobile connections (excluding IoT), Sub-Saharan Africa, 2013–2023
Figure 15: Mobile data traffic per connection, Sub-Saharan Africa (MB per month), 2013–2023
Figure 16: Mobile penetration by country, Sub-Saharan Africa, 2013–2023

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