By Issa Sikiti da Silva, in Lomé, Togo
Togo does not only have one of the smallest populations in West Africa (close to six million), but it also boasts one of the lowest mobile penetrations (54%) in this part of the continent.
Mobile penetration’s average in West Africa is 75%. Now, an expert told Biztechafrica that the country’s move to bring in a third mobile operator not only augurs well for its economy, but also constitutes a boost for its low mobile penetration.
The government announced the entry of a new mobile operator on June 12, and launched a tender the following week, sending a huge relief down experts’ spine and drawing scenes of joy in many parts of the country.
“To have a small population does not in any way means that there is a shortage of people to buy sim cards, airtime or data,” technology analyst John-Osei Seidu said.
“The third operator will undoubtedly add another flavour to the market, both in terms of quality of services and price. So, there’ll be people who’ll be attracted to the new network if these two aspects are much better than the others,” he added.
Togo’s mobile market is currently dominated by Togo Cellulaire – Togocell, a subsidiary of government-controlled Togotelecom – which leads by 73%, trailed by Moov (Etisalat Group) with 27%.
Togo’s mobile sector prices (local and international calls, SMS, data, among others) also appear to be higher than many countries in the region.
Some industry watchers believe that the country’s low mobile penetration and lack of adequate reforms could be the reason why the sector is lagging behind, and contributes only about 4% to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
This is much more insignificant compared to the agriculture sector and services which contribute about 28.2% and 37.9%, respectively.
Luckily, the government has acknowledged this and said that bringing in a third mobile operator will not only generate huge benefits for the Togolese people, but will most definitely lead to the ‘real’ transformation of Togo’s telecommunication sector.
The mobile industry in Africa contributes US$56 billion to the economy, equivalent to 3.5% of total GDP, the GSMA’s African Mobile Observatory said, adding that there remains a huge untapped potential in Africa – 36% of Africans – within the 25 largest African mobile markets who still have no access to mobile services.