The transformative power of affordable smartphones and unlimited data in Ghana

By Nana Appiah Acquaye, Accra, Ghana

Amadu Dialo is a 19 year-old car washer who lives and plies his trade in Nima, a suburb of Accra. He has just bought himself a spanking new Samsung Galaxy S6 smart phone from Tip Toe Lane, a popular mobile phone market at Kwame Nkrumah circle. For Dialo, like many Ghanaians using a feature mobile phone, it’s about time to “Drop that Yam” and get trendy with a smart phone that provides one with all the goodies on a platform that offers an unlimited service at an affordable rates compared to non in the industry in Ghana.

Getting a new Samsung Galaxy S6 smartphone on the market is not that easy since the cost might be very high above the normal smartphone on the mobile phone market. But with the help of most network operators in the country, these smartphones are partially subsidised coupled with flexible payment terms with some selected banks, making it quite simple for one to buy. For Dailo, he saves with Stanbic Bank where Tigo Ghana has a deal with the bank so was able to negotiate for flexible payment plan for his new smartphone.

Working at the bay sometimes becomes stressful and time consuming especially at a day when there are lot of cars to wash, and this normally keep Dialo away from his peers and the normal social lifestyle of a city youth but thanks to his new smartphone he now has way to keep track of all social activities on whatsapp, facebook and instagram.

An excited-looking Amadu told Biztechafrica about his experience with his new Galaxy S6 smart phone using Tigo’s affordable network. “I have been using this small phone.” He then pulled an old black Nokia feature phone with a cracks on the screen from his pocket and showed me. He said: “Before I came to the city from my village, this phone was my everything and still cherish it even though I’ve got a new one.   But my new Samsung Galaxy S6 phone is the best and now I can do so many things with it. Look, I’ve just received Ghana meets Naija musical concert updates schedule for Saturday, 23 May, 2015 at the Accra International Conference Centre from tigo and I’m hoping to win a ticket to watch Shatter Wale, my favourite hip life artiste performing,” he says. 

Amadu said he could do all these assignments without any restriction because of his unlimited data subscription on Tigo network coupled with a free 15 GB internet for 12 months that came with the smartphone.

Aside that Dialo, who is the first son from a family of seven remits to his parents back home in his native town Bimbilla in the Northern Region of Ghana using a mobile money service platform, a task he expediently performs on his smartphone.

Not far from Amadu Dialo lives Asantewaa Freeman, a yam seller at Mallam Atta market in Accra New Town. With her Huawei smartphone, which cost less than GHC150 ($ 50) Asantewaa is able to access farm prices of food stuff from Esoko,  a local mobile application platform that provides prices of food stuff on the market. Using the Esoko platform she is able to transact business with traders from various farms without going to the farm herself to buy her goods. Asked about how payment is done, Ms Freeman pointed to her Huawei smartphone and said ‘Tigo Cash’, meaning she is able to pay for her goods using a Tigo cash mobile money platform which can be access throughout the country and has also become one of the most easy platforms to send money to family, relatives, friends and love ones.

Although there are some challenges with the government promise to take off duty tax on the importation of smartphones into the country, most network operators in the including Tigo, MTN and Vodafone has taken upon themselves to subsidies the prices of smartphones through collaborations with mobile phone manufactures such as Tecno, Alcatel, Samsung and Huawei. These subsidies smartphones offered by the telcos to their subscribers comes with attractive data packages that allow subscribers to have access to user friendly applications and the internet. 

Industry experts believe that the 16% growth in the penetration of smartphones on the Ghanaian mobile market has the potential of impacting positively on the lives many especially those in the informal sector of the Ghanaian economy.

My experience with Amadu Dialo and Asantewaa Freeman confirms a recent report released by GSMA on the mobile economy in Sub Saharan Africa that high speed networks and the increase affordability of more advanced devices means the Sub Sahara Africa is now beginning to see an acceleration in the rate of smartphone adoption. It emphasize that this is bringing across a transformative change in the lives of subscribers and businesses across the region.

The report further predicted that there will be 525 million smartphone connections in the region by 2020 and stated that for the majority of users, smartphones will be the first device over which to access the internet and to use new applications and services, as well as to explore digital content. In the case of Dialo and Freeman their first smartphone has indeed exposed them to new applications and the internet which has help transformed their lives. 

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