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Research finds Nokia still dominates mobile in Africa

India has sent a clear message that it is watching Africa closely, especially after the impressive US$10.7-billion move by Indian telecoms giant Bharti Airtel to take over Zain Africa’s mobile operations in 15 countries. Speaking recently at Kenya’s technology centre, iHub, Ankit Rawal, head of African advertising for mobile advertiser inMobi, spent some time explaining why Africa is at the centre of mobile’s global growth, backing it up with solid research .

Ad Impressions
From its July 2010 statistics, InMobi reveals that Africa has recorded over 2.8-billion mobile ad impressions, which is an 18.5% growth from just one month previously (June 2010). That’s an amazing figure, and amazing growth, by anyone’s standards. Only 16% of that inventory is on smartphones.

InMobi’s largest African markets, in order, are: South Africa, Egypt, Kenya, Sudan, Libya and Nigeria. It’s important to note that there is a big difference between these countries and some of the others that we saw stats for. For instance, Mozambique, Tanzania, Angola and Namibia record only between 20 to 40-million impressions per month. There is a wide gap between Africa’s tech leaders and the rest of the continent.


Continent-wide, the most popular handset manufacturer by a long way is Nokia at 61.3%, followed by Samsung at 21.8%, then SonyEricsson a distant third at 6.3%. Those aren’t especially surprising figures, but if you dig down deeper into the country details provided for South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria, the statistics begin to differ.

  • In South Africa, it’s 38% each for Nokia and Samsung
  • In Kenya, it’s 66% Nokia and 18% Samsung
  • In Nigeria, it’s 78% Nokia and 9% SonyEricsson

Operating Systems
Important information for mobile app developers and businesses is which operating system to focus on. Nokia OS and Symbian lead, followed by RIM. There is no mention of Android, iPhone or Windows Mobile, though it must be said there is a suspiciously large (37%) chunk of the pie for “other”.


The actual devices that people are using that display mobile advertising is interesting as well. It’s largely Nokia, holding seven of the top 10 spots, with Samsung carrying the other three. The top device, is the moderately priced Nokia N70 which is a popular, though unpretty, “do it all” phone.

Other Information

Not available in the qualitative research document provided by InMobi, but part of Ankit’s talk yesterday, were some other demographic statistics.

Male acceptance of mobile advertising in Africa is the highest in the world, when asked, “How comfortable are you with mobile advertising?”. African women came in second behind Asia on that same question. Women in South Africa were the clear outlier compared to Nigeria and Kenya, with only 45% claiming they are comfortable with mobile ads.

Africa’s under-25 population has the highest comfort level with mobile ads in the world. 75% of people from this age range are “okay” with mobile ads, as opposed to 67% in Europe, 73% in the US and Asia.

South Africans are more interested in ads when top global brands appear as ads. The primary benefit of mobile ads that all consumers are looking for is “new information”.

Final Thoughts
Africa, as a whole, is well positioned to expect huge growth in mobile advertising, as a result of a combination of factors: Consumer acceptance of mobile ads is the highest in the world, increased data plan competition among telcos, rapid growth in 3g and smartphone adoption, and mobile screen mindshare amongst users.

Author | Erik Hersman: In Kenya

Erik Hersman: In Kenya
I grew up in Kenya and Sudan. I’m one of those guys who’s much more “at home” in Africa, and I currently live in Kenya. I’m happily married and have 3 beautiful little girls that keep me on my toes. I write two main blogs: White African is my... More

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