How Budget-Friendly Phones continue to drive digital inclusion in Africa

Budget-Friendly Smartphones are on a bullish streak in Africa. Thanks to the competition between Manufacturers to conquer the continent, Smartphones are now, and continue to be affordable than ever before.

As per a recent GSMA report smartphones makeup 39% of the 774 million mobile connections in Sub-Saharan Africa. This ratio is projected to grow significantly, but for Africans to fully reap the dividends of mobile connectivity, it is critical that 4G-enabled smartphone handsets have to rule the entry-level market.

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Notable entry-level releases that have shipped 4G include Itel’s P36 Smartphone, Nokia’s latest C3, Realme’s C series among other brands. But all 4G tagged releases often go beyond regular entry-level pricing which doesn’t favor the demand Trend.

So, Smartphones must become cheaper if Africa is to unlock the full potential of its people. Fortunately, there are already encouraging signs that manufacturers, policymakers, and network operators are partnering to integrate such financial innovation into the drive towards digital inclusion. 

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In Kenya, Safaricom recently rolled out a device financing program, in partnership with Google and Teleone, allowing low-income earners in Kenya to access quality 4G phones at low installments from as little as Kshs 20 (R3) a day.

The country has a high mobile telephony penetration, but this has traditionally involved 2G phones. The campaign aims to bring a million more customers into the digital economy.

Airtel Africa has expanded 4G adoption on the continent with its charming data offers increasing average data use, with 4G now accounting for more than 60% of its data revenue. Likely, MTN Group which ranks as the gigantic provider in the region has availed similar offers with full 4G coverage in its Sub-Saharan Markets.

However, one of the most effective means of encouraging smartphone adoption is reducing the tax burden on mobile phones in the form of import duties and sales taxes. In this context, policymakers have a powerful role to play in empowering citizens with easier access to digital connectivity. 

As smartphones become the norm, broadband spectrum can follow suit, and network operators can swiftly transition to 4G and 5G based platforms, with all the high-speed, mass-connectivity benefits that brings.

Perhaps the simplest way to hasten the digital inclusion rate is by triggering change in our understanding of the state of 4G handsets in Africa. Once Smartphones are seen as a commodity, communication tools, a basic right, instead of Luxury, they can be marketed, and taxed accordingly thus connecting all of humanity to the fast-paced digital world.

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