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Mobile phones soar in Africa

According to a UN report, mobile phone use is growing faster in Africa than anywhere else in the world.

Africa’s mobile phone industry has defied the global economic crisis with a boom in mobile phone subscriptions between 2003 and 2008. In five years the number of subscriptions has grown by more than 500 per cent. Speaking at the U.N conference on Trade and Development, Torbjourn Fredriksson of the UN says the growth in mobile phone use has social and economic significance.

Companies can use the mobile phones to obtain information about market developments, farmers can get information about weather forecasts and increasingly we see new mobile services emerging such as banking transactions and news ways of transmitting remittances between people and that has a very strong impact on the way that people and companies can do business in Africa”. Fredriksson said.

He added that while the use of mobile phones is on the rise, internet access is slow and expensive. “African countries are lagging behind not only developed countries, but also other developing regions in terms of fast access to the Internet”.  The UN report goes on to say that the monthly internet access in Burkina Faso, The Central African Republic and Swaziland is more than $1,300 which is the highest in the world. And only five countries-Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, South Africa and Tunisia account for 90 per cent of Africa’s broadband subscriptions.

Fredriksson says the problem until now has been that Africa has been excluded from the network of international fiber-optic cables that would potentially carry telecommunications between Africa and the rest of the world. But he says that appears to be changing. “Now in July we saw Seacom, a new cable that links the east coast of Africa with Europe and India; there is another one called the TEAMS cable, which will link Kenya with the United Arab Emirates later in 2009” Fredriksson said. “So these are promising signs but it remains a tremendous challenge to get the broadband connectivity up to the levels in other parts of the world

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