Fact of the Week: Living Standards In Sub-Saharan Africa Could Rise 30 Percent If Mobile Phone Penetration Rates Increased From 25 Phones Per 100 People To 75

January 9, 2017

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Encouraging access and adoption of technologies such as mobile telephony can serve a foundational role in increasing living standards for people in developing economies, giving them access to a plethora of tailored services that increase their earning power and improve their quality of life—from health care services to mobile banking to agricultural market information.

But while mobile telephony has helped alleviate poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa, there is significant potential for further adoption to drive more economic development. In a working paper from the African Governance and Development Institute, three economists analyzed mobile phone penetration rates and living standards in the region between 2000 and 2012. They find that, on average, Sub-Saharan nations have mobile phone penetration rates of 25 per 100 people, and this has been key in accelerating human development regardless of the countries’ levels of income. They conclude that if the mobile penetration rate could be brought up to 75 phones per 100 people—the average rate in developed nations—it would be possible for living standards across Sub-Saharan Africa to increase an average of 30 percent.