Mobile in Africa

By Esha Lotey

The Hoffman Agency, London

The rise of mobile phone use has always interested me. In fact, I studied how mobile communications affect our everyday lives while attending a module on “The Age of Social Media” as part of my Politics & Sociology degree. But I’d like to take a brief look at something I didn’t know – specifically, how my hometown of Nairobi in Kenya has recently experienced a sharp increase in mobile phone use among its poor.

This interesting story by The Economist mentions that the poor of Kenya value mobile communications so much that they’ll often sacrifice a meal or choose to walk instead of taking a bus just in order to save enough money for their mobile. Kenyans are likely to be living on less than $2.50 a day and are willing to go without other essentials to ensure they have credit on their phone.

Personally, I was surprised when reading the article to find that Kenyan people are getting immersed in mobile technology, especially concerning their already difficult financial needs. An example to highlight these financial straits is M-Pesa, a specialist mobile-based money-transfer system allowing the poor to use any mobile handset to send and receive money. The system is established by Safaricom, a Kenyan operator which has facilitated the transfer of approximately $8.6 billion in financial services – and this was only in the first part of 2012.

I am curious to see how mobile technology will evolve even further in the lives of Kenyans during the next few years. I expect this is only the beginning, and Kenya is setting an example for all other Less Economically Developed Countries (LEDCs). Soon Kenya will be better able to communicate and possibly compete, in an ever-advancing and growing mobile market.

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