Mobile is a rapidly growing channel for internet connection in Africa for a few reasons. Notably obstacles in establishing infrastructure, and the cost of PCs, which have driven users more towards lower-cost mobile devices as telcos build increasing support for wireless broadband. Kenya is a leading country with regard to mobile development, and numerous new partnerships and services are making it an example for its neighbors. Jumia — an online retail company that serves much of Africa, but is Kenya’s top e-retailer — revealed this week that its mobile traffic jumped by 13% over the last year.
The company saw an increase from 23% of website visits sourced from mobile devices in 2013 to 37% of website visits from mobile in 2014. While desktop figures still represent the majority of the way users access Jumia, these growing figures reflect Kenya’s trend overall; users are increasingly turning to smartphones and tablets to access the internet. Statistics gathered by the Communications Authority of Kenya point to nearly 83% mobile penetration in the country; the number of mobile subscribers is on a steady upward climb. The numbers of mobile-based payments in Kenya top charts on the continent. And last year Pew Research found that Kenya’s population makes payments with mobile devices more than any of the other 24 countries surveyed by the research group. Faced with this skyrocketing trend, companies are quickly working to feed the mobile need in Kenya.
BizTech Africa reported yesterday that telco Airtel Kenya has partnered with Medanta Africare to work on a mobile health service which will enable subscribers to consult with doctors over the phone. Launched from Nairobi, the service will run to Airtel customers and Medanta’s Telemedicine Center will be a portal for medical advice. And research has shown that mobile applications launching in Kenya are targeting the country’s agricultural sector: M-Farm is an app that allows farmers to send text messages requesting information about crop prices. It provides data to farmers while connecting them with food suppliers.
As services like these pop up, it’s not just the low-cost phones that are gaining in popularity — high-end devices are also available. Earlier this week, Samsung revealed that its Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge smartphones (costing USD$800 and USD$960 respectively) will be introduced to the Kenyan market.
Countries like Nigeria and South Africa have topped Kenya’s rate of mobile growth, but the East African country is making huge strides with on-boarding users. Kenya has proven itself more than primed for a successful mobile industry — it is now an example for other governments and markets to model.