South Africa’s Mobile Landscape
According to the U.K.-based company Informa Telecoms & Media, the use of mobile phones in Africa has grown faster than any other region of the world since 2003, and in late 2011, Africa became the world’s second most connected region after Asia (up from fourth place at the end of 2010). There is no doubt that a huge proportion of these will be accounted for by some of Africa’s more developed countries. Africa’s biggest users of mobile telephony are Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya and Ghana.
Smartphone sales in South Africa are also on the rise. Blackberry is currently struggling to remain one of the top smartphone brands globally, with the company facing issues that include intense competition, waning customer interest and declining market share. However, Blackberry is still South Africa’s favourite smartphone, claiming 44 percent of the market share, whilst Android and Apple claim 8 and 4 percent respectively. One of the upshots is that the use of social media in South Africa has also continued on an upward trend alongside increasingly sophisticated mobile telephony.
Although Facebook and Twitter are the two largest social network sites in the world; in South Africa, Mxit has over 10 million active users, making it significantly larger than Facebook and Twitter combined. Facebook has close to 5 million South Africans registered to it, whilst Twitter has 405 000 active users in South Africa. The latter figure seems relatively miniscule, but South African tweeters make up 8.5% of the world’s Twitter users, thus making the country the 10th largest user of the social network. All of these figures are indicative of the fact that, whilst Africa may be behind more developed continents in terms of internet penetration; the influence of social media is widespread amongst the upwardly mobile in South Africa.
The development of local mobile applications is still in the crawling stage, however, there’s certainly evidence indicating that South Africans will embrace the apps. One local application that show a lot of promise is the FNB Banking App available for iOS, Android and Blackberry devices. The latter allows users to do the usual banking transactions. It also features an FNB Branch and ATM locater, and a Forex rates function. The application is the first of its kind in South Africa, but chances are that other banks will soon follow suit. The most downloaded mobile app in South Africa is the Yellow Pages app. One can imagine how much more convenient it is to hold millions of phone numbers in the palm of one’s hand.