Mobile operators have ramped up investment in the region extending GSM coverage to reach an additional 550,000 square kilometres occupied by 46 million people.
The broadening coverage and the falling cost of mobile communications is enabling tens of millions of Africans to become connected for the first time in their lives. Africa has only 35 million fixed-lines.
"Africa's mobile industry is delivering on its promise to blanket the continent's inhabitants with coverage giving tens of thousands of rural communities their first opportunity to realise the substantial social and economic benefits of mobile communications," said Tom Phillips, Chief Government & Regulatory Affairs Officer of the GSMA, speaking at the ITU Telecom Africa event in Cairo.
"However, over 300 million rural Africans do not yet have mobile coverage. They live in an area the size of China, India and the USA combined.
"Developing sustainable business models to serve thesecommunities is a great challenge, which requires the mobile industry and African governments to work together."
Another interesting observation from the Dunn and Company report commissioned by the GSMA is that the uptake of mobile wallets around the globe is predicted to grow exponentially over the next few years, reaching 1.4 billion by 2015.
With such huge growth expected in the industry it is essential that organizations wishing to offer the mobile wallet solution engage the right technology partner to ensure successful deployments solutions and regulatory compliance says Hannes van Rensburg, Chief Executive of Fundamo.
Van Rensburg¹s comments come on the eve of the Mobile Money Summit, hosted by the GSMA in Cairo, where he will share the speaker platform with other industry players this week to discuss the challenges faced by the mobile wallet industry and the suggested solutions.
The summit will investigate business models, the regulatory hurdles, and the development of a global cross-border infrastructure amongst other pressing issues.
"Our experience shows that to deploy and support a mobile wallet solution is not a trivial exercise.
"It requires a complete and multi-faceted approach to ensure the business success of these projects and then of course this solution needs to conform to banking specifications
It takes not only great technology, but an experienced supplier to deliver a reliable solution. It is a crucial element for Mobile Operators to consider when selecting their supplier," explains
Fundamo, which has been rolling out mobile payment technology in the Europe, Middle-East and Africa regions for the last nine years, was recently chosen by the GSMA to provide the technology for the rollout of a mobile wallet pilot programme which is to be offered to some 700 mobile operators.
According to research from FinMark Trust, there are 65 million unbanked people in the world; the rollout of mobile wallets is set to reduce this number significantly.
Van Rensburg believes this issue to be a global social and economic priority.
A mobile wallet, the combination of a phone and branded payment card, offers a powerful proposition for Mobile Network Operators (MNO) and partner banks, leveraging the MNO¹s customer penetration and brand image, and the bank¹s stability and payment skills, to enable remote payments, person to person payments and international remittances.
A major driver for adoption and fast roll-out of mobile wallet services is international money remittances, where significant international money flows can be delivered from, and to, mobile wallets at much reduced rates.
Targeting remitting communities, an MNO can capture and lock-in a well defined population, with marketing campaigns supported by community word of mouth.
Industry players, including Fundamo, which are involved in these initiatives, are working hard to ensure that these services are designed within the regulatory frameworks of each country
and are currently working with global and national regulators towards that end.
"There is consensus among analysts and market experts that there is a major interest in the mobile wallet solution.
"In Africa and Middle East for instance, there are many examples where the adoption of mobile wallets has been successful particularly in Kenya, South Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo," says Van Rensburg.
"We see the Cairo Summit as a platform for industry leaders to come together and share their expertise and experience in the field of mobile remittances.
"There are currently regulatory and consumer acceptance challenges which Fundamo believes can be overcome by frank and collective information sharing," he adds.
The Cairo Summit is a two-day event that is happening on the heels of the Barcelona event where major pilot projects were announced.