Next-generation cell phone networks are arriving in Africa, a region some carriers view as an enormous business opportunity, despite widespread poverty.
Less than 10 percent of the population of even the most technologically developed countries has telephone service of any kind. In Nigeria, the figure is less than half of 1 percent.
That translates into hundreds of millions of potential customers. And although trying to sell mobile phones to people who don’t even have old-fashioned landline models might seem like folly, business and infrastructure concerns may give cellular the edge.
But just as in China, a huge untapped population doesn’t necessarily mean instant jackpot-size revenue for phone sellers, Beckert said. Poverty is certainly one of the biggest obstacles keeping phones out of Africa’s hands.
“Look at how many (customers) are in China, then look at the average income,” Stephan Beckert pf TeleGeography said. “You’re seeing factory workers making 60 cents per day. They aren’t going to buy cell phones anytime soon.”