A new survey from Pew Research Center shows the incredibly strong growth of the cell phone industry in sub-Saharan Africa. In many countries, mobile phone ownership has increased over 1,000% since 2002, and cell phones have become a lifeline for Africans in rural communities.
To conduct the survey, Pew interviewed 7,052 people in seven countries: South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Senegal, Tanzania and Uganda. While only 15% of respondents owned a smartphone, a staggering 65% owned a cell phone. Comparatively, smartphone ownership in the U.S. is 64%, and basic cell phones make up 25% of the market.
Ghana showed one of the largest increases in cell phone ownership, jumping from 8% in 2002 to 83% in 2014.
Sending text messages was the most common use of a cell phone in these seven African countries. An average of 80% of the people in sub-Saharan Africa used the phone for this purpose. Taking pictures (53%) and making or receiving payments were other very popular activities on a cell phone.
Smartphones were most common in developed nations, with 34% of South Africans and 27% of Nigerians own a smartphone. Other nations in the survey have smartphone ownership in the single-digits. Age, education and the ability to speak English played a big role in smartphone ownership as well. Smartphones were most common with respondents between 18 and 34 years of age who spoke English and had a secondary education.
The survey was conducted from April 11 to June 5, 2014, and all of the responses were recorded in face-to-face interviews.