The mobile Internet is transforming life across the African continent with the support of growing local connectivity and mobility and a dynamic, young urban population. With a potential to add up to $180 billion to Africa’s gross domestic product (GDP by 2025, depending on the usage intensity of digital technologies by businesses, the Internet economy is improving productivity and efficiencies across large swaths of the economy, including agriculture, education, financial services, healthcare, and supply chains.


Africa is home to 1.3 billion people, or 16% of the global population. The continent encompasses 20% of the world’s landmass distributed across 54 countries with diverse populations, cultures, states of development, and levels of stability. Africa’s 54 countries are clustered into five regions: Central Africa, East Africa, North Africa, Southern Africa, and West Africa.


Africa is experiencing rapid urbanization, with 68 cities each home to over one million inhabitants in 2020; the number of such cities is projected to increase to 85 by 2025. By that same year, Africa’s urban population is predicted to grow by 190 million people. There has been a general improvement in life expectancy. These are positive trends that suggest a higher adoption of digital services in Africa in the future.


Young African consumers are becoming more affluent and globalized as they also grow to become household decision-makers. The proportion of the population that is of working age will continue to rise; by 2050, Africa will have the only decreasing dependency ratio globally. This boosts the continent’s competitiveness in both skilled and unskilled labor


Africa’s private sector performance is broadly derived from economic reforms and improving governance. Compared with 2019, Sub-Saharan African economies increased their average score for ease of doing business by 0.9 points.


The African Union (AU) is building the largest free trade zone in the world. When it was enacted in May 2019, the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) created the single biggest free trade zone on the planet, containing almost every African country. The AfCFTA aims to reduce tariffs on 90% of all goods and facilitate free movement of goods, services, capital, and people.


Despite a negative macroeconomic outlook as a result of COVID-19, the African Internet economy is expected to be resilient. Africa’s total GDP is expected to decrease by an order of magnitude that will depend on both the duration of the health crisis and the effectiveness of government responses to save lives and livelihoods, and to mitigate potential business failures and unemployment.


Internet access is transforming the African continent. Since 2000, the number of people with Internet access has grown to over 520 million, or 40% of the population; and 60% of the population accesses the Internet via mobile. Increasing Internet access to reach 75% of the population could create 44 million jobs.

Internet access is increasing in the African continent. Since 2000, the number of people with Internet access has grown to 522.8 million, or 39.8% of the population. Digital connectivity has rapidly expanded across Africa over the past decade. Between 2010 and 2019, more than 300 million Africans gained access to the Internet, with nearly 500 million new smartphone connections. In the next decade, the number of Internet users in Africa is expected to grow by 11%, representing 16% of the total global amount.

A 10% increase in mobile Internet penetration increases GDP per capita by 2.5% in Africa, compared with 2% globally. In addition, a 10% increase in digitization, the conversion of information into a digital medium, increases GDP per capita by 1.9% in Africa, compared with 1% in non-Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries.35 More generally, increasing Internet access to 75% of the population could create 44 million jobs.

The mobile technology sector is a major contributor of economic value. Of the total GDP for Sub-Saharan Africa in 2018, 8.6% came from mobile technologies and services, translating to a $144.1 billion gain. In addition, nearly 3.5 million people were employed in the mobile sector, and corresponding taxes contributed another $15.6 billion.

Increased connectivity has presented an opportunity for businesses and communities to leapfrog with new technologies, paving the way for economic development. 144 mobile money services are available across Sub-Saharan Africa, serving more than 469 million registered accounts with daily transactions amounting to $1.25 billion by the end of 2019, compared to 298 million registered accounts for traditional bank accounts in 2017.

Mobile devices are the most common means of Internet access. Across the continent, 60% of the population is accessing the Internet via mobile.41 By 2025, 167 million more people from SubSaharan Africa will have subscribed to mobile services reaching 623mm users, and smartphone connections in the region will more than double. 42 In the next decade, the number of Internet users in Africa will grow by 11%, representing 16% of the total global amount.


Affordability is a primary barrier to mobile Internet access.

Entry-level and secondhand devices have prices ranging from $35 to $40 which is the equivalent of up to 80% of monthly wages in some African countries. Affordability levels exceed the global 2% of monthly income target in more than 75% of countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, largely due to the high import cost of devices. Asian brands account for 70% of the African mobile device market, with the Chinese-owned Transsion leading in volume. As local phone manufacturing grows and structured payment plans become more prevalent, smartphones are expected to become more affordable and available.

There has been significant progress in reducing the cost of data over the past few years.

Tariffs have dropped from 13.2% of average monthly income to 6.8% between 2016 and 2019. As governments continue to implement mandates and the supply of mobile devices continues to grow, Internet access will become more widespread and affordable.

There is an increasing demand for high-speed Internet and digital services.

While the majority of mobile connections in Africa are slower-speed 2G connections, 3G broadband connections are predicted to account for 54% of all connections by 2025, with 4G connections reaching 31%.48 Fixed broadband has also grown 15% annually since 2015 and is expected to triple by 2023.

Monthly data consumption is forecasted to increase by over 300% between 2018 and 2024.

This will lead to a higher demand for faster and more reliable Internet. In addition, digital readiness will also need to increase in order to help drive usage more widely, requiring the development of content in local languages and educational initiatives for digital literacy skills. Based on The Inclusive Internet Index, South Africa, Tunisia, Morocco, Kenya, and Nigeria are currently best positioned for thriving Internet economies.


Market leaders are driving innovation in Africa across emerging verticals, such as fintech, healthtech, media and entertainment, e-mobility and food delivery, and B2B e-Logistics. Over the past decade, Africa’s Internet gross domestic product (iGDP) —defined as the Internet’s contribution to the GDP— growth has been strong.

In 2012, less than a decade ago, Africa’s Internet economy was estimated at roughly 1.1%, or $30 billion, of its GDP. An analysis conducted by Accenture found that iGDP may contribute approximately $115 billion to Africa’s 2.554 trillion GDP (4.5%) in 2020, up from $99.7 billion in 2019,52with a potential to grow as the economies gradually develop. By way of comparison, in developed economies like the US, the Internet economy contributed to 9% of GDP in 2018.

Over the next five years, COVID-19 is expected to delay economic growth both in Africa as well as in the rest of the world. However, despite these headwinds, Accenture’s analysis suggests that by 2025, the Internet economy has the potential to reach 5.2% of the GDP in Africa, contributing almost $180 billion to Africa’s total GDP, with low-income countries likely to remain below and middle-income countries expected to slightly exceed that average

After a period of economic recovery, Africa’s iGDP should continue to grow from 2025 onwards as the remaining 38 countries catch up to the 16 early-adopting ones mentioned above. So, while COVID-19 will be a shock to the economy in the short term, the underlying factors of Africa’s strong Internet economy will not only remain the same but strengthen. The resilience of the Internet economy coupled with investments in infrastructure, private consumption, strong developer talent, public and private investment, and new government policies and regulations will continue to drive this growth in Africa.