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With AfricaCom still fresh in our minds, MEF Minute takes stroll through Opera’s well-timed State Of The Mobile Web Africa report. Here are the key findings…

After 20 years of astonishing growth, the mobile market has reached the top of the S curve. It’s far from settled – and it’s certainly not boring – but the truth is in most regions, people have smartphones.

And data plans. And apps.

But not everywhere. In Africa, the mobile market is still on a growth spurt. It’s dynamic and booming. Africans, like everyone else, have embraced browsing, messaging, social media and more.

But because of the relative lack of fixed broadband – and relatively low incomes – they have done so with real creativity.

Photo Credit: Worldreader

This helps to explain the popularity of the Opera Mini browser across the contScreen Shot 2016-11-14 at 20.47.15inent. The Norwegian company launched its dedicated mobile browser in 2006. Mini was tailored for mobile, promising to deliver a rich experience while consuming a fraction of the data.

Opera teamed up with multiple African operators to pre-load Mini on phones. The efficient browser stimulated the market for data plans, while keeping them affordable.

Today, ten years on Opera has 100m African users.

Opera’s success in the continent gives the company a good insight into African’s mobile web habits. And it’s just wrapped these up into a new report: State of the Mobile Web Africa.

Opera quotes Ericsson in expecting to see a 13-fold increase in mobile data traffic across Africa by 2021. It says this will be driven by the increase in smartphone subscriptions (2016 marks the first year that more smartphones are being shipped in Africa than feature phones) and demand for media-rich content.

It also states that the continent is firmly controlled by Android. It quotes IDC data that says 89 per cent of all smartphones shipped in Africa during the first quarter of 2015 were powered by Android.

And it sees the dominance of Android in its own numbers. Opera Mini’s Android user base in Africa grew an astonishing 2,284 per cent between 2013 and 2016. This is in part due to Opera pre-loads on phones from Tecno, Samsung and others.

Screen Shot 2016-11-14 at 20.45.28Africa’s hunger for mobile services is not in doubt. But there are still challenges to overcome. Data is prohibitively expensive for many mobile users in Africa.

Opera says the average German can pay for 500MB with one hour of work. Nigerians have to work around three and a half days to afford the same. Opera concludes that 53 per cent of Africans can afford just 20MB of data a month.

There’s also pressure on network resources. Opera says in Norway 400 people share a cellphone tower on average, whilst in Nigeria it’s closer to 6,000. Naturally, this can degrade the mobile internet experience.

But for all this, Africans are still fully embracing the smartphone lifestyle. It reports that:

  • A third of South Africans use apps, compared with 31 per cent in Ghana, 28 per cent
    in Nigeria, 19 per cent in Kenya and 18 per cent in Uganda.
  • 42 per cent of South Africans watch video content on mobile
  • Visits to streaming video websites on Opera Mini in Africa have increased 36 per cent since 2012
  • Around two million African Opera Mini users read e-books from Worldreader every month. This is thanks to a 2015 partnership to give away free ebooks via the browser.Screen Shot 2016-11-14 at 20.46.25