Africa is judiciously positioned to be the next big mobile market, enviously eyed by global investors for her enormous growth opportunities. 2019 is undeniably the year to prioritize investments in Africa’s mobile market, to leverage this monetary opportunity.
According to a Mobile Report for Africa released by Jumia, Africa’s leading e-commerce platform, the continent’s real output growth is expected to reach 4.1% by the end of 2019; from an estimated 3.5% in 2018. The growth is expected as a result of improvement in macroeconomic conditions in the continent.
The Mobile Economy contributed USD 110 billion to Africa’s GDP (7% of the total GDP) in 2017; and is expected to generate more than $150 billion (approximately 7.9% of GDP) by 2022. The mobile technologies and services industry further supported 3 million jobs in 2017. A growing population of 1.28 billion people (42% of which are in cities), a snowballing middle class expected to reach 1.1 billion out of the 2.5 billion Africans by 2050 – leading to a higher purchasing power – are among the considerations for Africa’s mobile explosion.
Other factors that have driven much of Africa’s growth in mobile subscriptions include more affordable smartphones, declining mobile data plans, the efficiency brought about by smartphones including online shopping/purchases, mobile payments as well as searching for information. Nevertheless, the growth of mobile will remain uneven, as the 54 African countries record varying performances, both in their respective mobile markets and the entire economies.
Booming number of smartphones in Africa
In 2018, Africa had 255 million smartphone connections, which is equivalent to 36% of the total population. This is against a 444 million mobile subscriber base in the continent by 2017. By 2025, there are expected to be approximately 690 million smartphones in Sub-Saharan Africa, equating to a connection of about 66%.
Although affordability of the smartphone has been quoted as a major challenge for a part of the population, Jumia – Africa’s leading ecommerce platform – has reported a decreasing average price of smartphones over the last three years. The average amount spent to purchase a smartphone on the platform in 2016 stood at 99 USD, which reduced to 96 USD in 2017 and 95 USD in 2018 respectively.
However, the rise of affordable entry-level devices from price-focused brands remain a key driver of smartphone adoption in Africa. Among the top mobile brands on Jumia in 2018 included Infinix (which has been thee top brand for the last three years), Samsung, Xiaomi, Tecno and Fero. Besides, while affordability of mobile data in Africa is improving across the board, the cost remains high, with the price of 1GB averaging around 8.76% relative to monthly income in 2017.
Sub-Saharan Africa is experiencing a high migration rate to mobile broadband-capable connections, with 5G connections expected to launch in Africa in 2021. In 2018, 4G stood at 6%, 3G at 35%, while 2G dominated at 59%. By 2025, 5G will account for 3% of the total connections, while 4G will rise to 24%. 3G will be dominant at 59%, and 2G will have dropped to just 14% of the total connections.
This century is always looking at improving new super high speed technology to make life easier. On the other hand, beckoning as an emerging fierce reversal force to equally match or dominate this life enhancing super new tech, comes swift human adversaries which seem to have come to make living on earth even more difficult.
The recent discovery of a pandemic, Covid-19, which moves at a pace of unimaginable and unpredictable proportions; locking people inside homes and barring human interactions with its dreaded death threat, is currently being felt.
Member of Parliament for Kanye North, Thapelo Letsholo has cautioned Government against excessive borrowing and poorly managed debt levels.
He was speaking in Parliament on Tuesday delivering Parliament’s Finance Committee report after assessing a motion that sought to raise Government Bond program ceiling to P30 billion, a big jump from the initial P15 Billion.
Government Investment Account (GIA) which forms part of the Pula fund has been significantly drawn down to finance Botswana’s budget deficits since 2008/09 Global financial crises.
The 2009 global economic recession triggered the collapse of financial markets in the United States, sending waves of shock across world economies, eroding business sentiment, and causing financiers of trade to excise heightened caution and hold onto their cash.
The ripple effects of this economic catastrophe were mostly felt by low to middle income resource based economies, amplifying their vulnerability to external shocks. The diamond industry which forms the gist of Botswana’s economic make up collapsed to zero trade levels across the entire value chain.
The Upstream, where Botswana gathers much of its diamond revenue was adversely impacted by muted demand in the Midstream. The situation was exacerbated by zero appetite of polished goods by jewelry manufacturers and retail outlets due to lowered tail end consumer demand.
This resulted in sharp decline of Government revenue, ballooned budget deficits and suspension of some developmental projects. To finance the deficit and some prioritized national development projects, government had to dip into cash balances, foreign reserves and borrow both externally and locally.
Much of drawing was from Government Investment Account as opposed to drawing from foreign reserve component of the Pula Fund; the latter was spared as a fiscal buffer for the worst rainy days.
Consequently this resulted in significant decline in funds held in the Government Investment Account (GIA). The account serves as Government’s main savings depository and fund for national policy objectives.
However as the world emerged from the 2009 recession government revenue graph picked up to pre recession levels before going down again around 2016/17 owing to challenges in the diamond industry.
Due to a number of budget surpluses from 2012/13 financial year the Government Investment Account started expanding back to P30 billion levels before a series of budget deficits in the National Development Plan 11 pushed it back to decline a decline wave.
When the National Development Plan 11 commenced three (3) financial years ago, government announced that the first half of the NDP would run at budget deficits.
This as explained by Minister of Finance in 2017 would be occasioned by decline in diamond revenue mainly due to government forfeiting some of its dividend from Debswana to fund mine expansion projects.
Cumulatively since 2017/18 to 2019/20 financial year the budget deficit totaled to over P16 billion, of which was financed by both external and domestic borrowing and drawing down from government cash balances. Drawing down from government cash balances meant significant withdrawals from the Government Investment Account.
The Government Investment Account (GIA) was established in accordance with Section 35 of the Bank of Botswana Act Cap. 55:01. The Account represents Government’s share of the Botswana‘s foreign exchange reserves, its investment and management strategies are aligned to the Bank of Botswana’s foreign exchange reserves management and investment guidelines.
Government Investment Account, comprises of Pula denominated deposits at the Bank of Botswana and held in the Pula Fund, which is the long-term investment tranche of the foreign exchange reserves.
In June 2017 while answering a question from Bogolo Kenewendo, the then Minister of Finance & Economic Development Kenneth Mathambo told parliament that as of June 30, 2017, the total assets in the Pula Fund was P56.818 billion, of which the balance in the GIA was P30.832 billion.
Kenewendo was still a back bench specially elected Member of Parliament before ascending to cabinet post in 2018. Last week Minister of Finance & Economic Development, Dr Thapelo Matsheka, when presenting a motion to raise government local borrowing ceiling from P15 billion to P30 Billion told parliament that as of December 2019 Government Investment Account amounted to P18.3 billion.
Dr Matsheka further told parliament that prior to financial crisis of 2008/9 the account amounted to P30.5 billion (41 % of GDP) in December of 2008 while as at December 2019 it stood at P18.3 billion (only 9 % of GDP) mirroring a total decline by P11 billion in the entire 11 years.
Back in 2017 Parliament was also told that the Government Investment Account may be drawn-down or added to, in line with actuations in the Government’s expenditure and revenue outturns. “This is intended to provide the Government with appropriate funds to execute its functions and responsibilities effectively and efficiently” said Mathambo, then Minister of Finance.
Acknowledging the need to draw down from GIA no more, current Minister of Finance Dr Matsheka said “It is under this background that it would be advisable to avoid excessive draw down from this account to preserve it as a financial buffer”
He further cautioned “The danger with substantially reduced financial buffers is that when an economic shock occurs or a disaster descends upon us and adversely affects our economy it becomes very difficult for the country to manage such a shock”