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Mobile industry adds $100bn to sub-Saharan Africa GDP

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The mobile industry in Sub-Saharan Africa contributed more than US$100 billion to the region’s economy last year, according to a new GSMA study published at the ‘Mobile 360 Series – Africa’ conference recently held in Cape Town.

The new study, ‘The Mobile Economy – Sub-Saharan Africa 2015’, finds that the US$102 billion economic contribution in 2014 was equivalent to 5.7 per cent of the region’s GDP. Mobile operators directly contributed US$31 billion, representing 1.7 per cent of GDP. This economic contribution is set to increase over the coming years as mobile operators continue to extend connectivity to unconnected populations across the region and roll out new mobile broadband networks and services. The industry is forecast to contribute US$166 billion in value to the region by 2020, equivalent to 8 per cent of expected GDP by this point.

“The mobile industry remains a key driver of economic growth and employment in Sub-Saharan Africa, making a vital contribution given the population growth and high unemployment levels seen in many countries in the region,” said Alex Sinclair, Acting Director General and Chief Technology Officer at the GSMA. “Despite revenue and margin pressures, local mobile operators continue to invest heavily to extend network coverage to serve unconnected communities and accelerate the migration to high-speed 3G/4G mobile broadband networks. Mobile technology is also playing a central role in Sub-Saharan Africa by addressing a range of socio-economic challenges, particularly digital and financial inclusion, and enabling access to vital services such as education and healthcare.”

The World’s Fastest-Growing Mobile Region

It is forecast that there will be 386 million unique mobile subscribers in Sub-Saharan Africa by the end of this year, equivalent to 41 per cent of the region’s population. The region’s subscriber base has grown by 13 per cent a year (CAGR), on average, during the first half of this decade (2010 to 2015), growing at more than twice the rate of the global average (6 per cent) during this period. The region overtook Latin America in 2014 to become the world’s third-largest mobile subscriber market, behind only Asia Pacific and Europe. The number of unique mobile subscribers in Sub-Saharan Africa is forecast to surpass half a billion (518 million) by 2020, representing almost one in two (49 per cent) of the region’s population by this point.

Total mobile connections in Sub-Saharan Africa are on track to reach 722 million by year-end. Mobile broadband (3G/4G) will account for almost a quarter of connections this year, but will increase to 57 per cent by 2020, driven by expanding mobile broadband network coverage and falling device costs. Commercial 3G networks have been launched in 41 countries across Sub-Saharan Africa as of June 2015, while 4G networks have been launched in 23 countries.

Investment in these high-speed networks is resulting in a corresponding growth in consumers using their devices to access the internet; almost a quarter (23 per cent) of the Sub-Saharan African population will be using the mobile internet this year, a figure forecast to rise to 37 per cent by 2020. Mobile is seen as the primary means of accessing the internet in a region where fixed-line infrastructure is severely limited.

The increasing availability of mobile broadband networks, alongside the introduction of affordable mobile data tariffs and falling device prices, has led to a surge in smartphone use. The smartphone adoption rate has doubled over the last two years and now accounts for one in five connections, though this is still half the global adoption average (40 per cent). It is predicted that regional smartphone connections will reach 540 million by 2020, accounting for half of total connections by that point. The report notes that the average selling price (ASP) of smartphones has fallen significantly in most regional markets, with an increasing number of models now available in the sub-US$100 price range.

Investing In Jobs, Networks and Innovation

In 2014, the mobile ecosystem directly employed approximately 2 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa, with the majority working in the distribution and retail sectors and approximately 325,000 employed by mobile operators. A further 2.4 million jobs were indirectly supported as result of the demand generated by the mobile sector, bringing the total to 4.4 million. It is forecast that the industry will grow to support more than 6 million jobs by 2020. The mobile ecosystem also made a contribution to the public finances of the region’s governments via general taxation of approximately US$15 billion in 2014.

Mobile operators in the region invested US$9 billion in network infrastructure development in 2014, a 16 per cent increase on the amount invested in 2013. The ongoing investment in mobile broadband networks will see capital investments reach US$13.6 billion by 2020.

The report highlights how mobile operators are working on innovative solutions to expand network coverage to underserved populations in rural and geographically remote areas, and to tackle the barriers to mobile phone adoption, including affordability and digital literacy. It also indicates that mobile operators, governments and international development organisations have been working on a range of mobile-based solutions to address a variety of social challenges in the region, many of which arise from lack of access to essential services, such as basic education and health.

“Mobile is having a hugely positive and transformative impact across Sub-Sahara Africa, but future progress will depend on governments working with the industry to provide a regulatory environment that encourages investment and innovation,” added Alex Sinclair.

Arts and Entertainment

VoD cuts the cord in SA

Some 20% of South Africans who sign up for a subscription video on demand (SVOD) service such as Netflix or Showmax do so with the intention of cancelling their pay television subscription.

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That’s according to GfK’s international ViewScape survey*, which this year covers Africa (South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria) for the first time.

The study—which surveyed 1,250 people representative of urban South African adults with Internet access—shows that 90% of the country’s online adults today use at least one online video service and that just over half are paying to view digital online content. The average user spends around 7 hours and two minutes a day consuming video content, with broadcast television accounting for just 42% of the time South Africans spend in front of a screen.

Consumers in South Africa spend nearly as much of their daily viewing time – 39% of the total – watching free digital video sources such as YouTube and Facebook as they do on linear television. People aged 18 to 24 years spend more than eight hours a day watching video content as they tend to spend more time with free digital video than people above their age.

Says Benjamin Ballensiefen, managing director for Sub Sahara Africa at GfK: “The media industry is experiencing a revolution as digital platforms transform viewers’ video consumption behaviour. The GfK ViewScape study is one of the first to not only examine broadcast television consumption in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa, but also to quantify how linear and online forms of content distribution fit together in the dynamic world of video consumption.”

The study finds that just over a third of South African adults are using streaming video on demand (SVOD) services, with only 16% of SVOD users subscribing to multiple services. Around 23% use per-pay-view platforms such as DSTV Box Office, while about 10% download pirated content from the Internet. Around 82% still sometimes watch content on disc-based media.

“Linear and non-linear television both play significant roles in South Africa’s video landscape, though disruption from digital players poses a growing threat to the incumbents,” says Molemo Moahloli, general manager for media research & regional business development at GfK Sub Sahara Africa. “Among most demographics, usage of paid online content is incremental to consumption of linear television, but there are signs that younger consumers are beginning to substitute SVOD for pay-television subscriptions.”

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New data rules raise business trust challenges

When the General Data Protection Regulation comes into effect on May 25th, financial services firms will face a new potential threat to their on-going challenges with building strong customer relationships, writes DARREL ORSMOND, Financial Services Industry Head at SAP Africa.

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The regulation – dubbed GDPR for short – is aimed at giving European citizens control back over their personal data. Any firm that creates, stores, manages or transfers personal information of an EU citizen can be held liable under the new regulation. Non-compliance is not an option: the fines are steep, with a maximum penalty of €20-million – or nearly R300-million – for transgressors.

GDPR marks a step toward improved individual rights over large corporates and states that prevents the latter from using and abusing personal information at their discretion. Considering the prevailing trust deficit – one global EY survey found that 60% of global consumers worry about hacking of bank accounts or bank cards, and 58% worry about the amount of personal and private data organisations have about them – the new regulation comes at an opportune time. But it is almost certain to cause disruption to normal business practices when implemented, and therein lies both a threat and an opportunity.

The fundamentals of trust

GDPR is set to tamper with two fundamental factors that can have a detrimental effect on the implicit trust between financial services providers and their customers: firstly, customers will suddenly be challenged to validate that what they thought companies were already doing – storing and managing their personal data in a manner that is respectful of their privacy – is actually happening. Secondly, the outbreak of stories relating to companies mistreating customer data or exposing customers due to security breaches will increase the chances that customers now seek tangible reassurance from their providers that their data is stored correctly.

The recent news of Facebook’s indiscriminate sharing of 50 million of its members’ personal data to an outside firm has not only led to public outcry but could cost the company $2-trillion in fines should the Federal Trade Commission choose to pursue the matter to its fullest extent. The matter of trust also extends beyond personal data: in EY’s 2016 Global Consumer Banking Survey, less than a third of respondents had complete trust that their banks were being transparent about fees and charges.

This is forcing companies to reconsider their role in building and maintaining trust with its customers. In any customer relationship, much is done based on implicit trust. A personal banking customer will enjoy a measure of familiarity that often provides them with some latitude – for example when applying for access to a new service or an overdraft facility – that can save them a lot of time and energy. Under GDPR and South Africa’s POPI act, this process is drastically complicated: banks may now be obliged to obtain permission to share customer data between different business units (for example because they are part of different legal entities and have not expressly received permission). A customer may now allow banks to use their personal data in risk scoring models, but prevent them from determining whether they qualify for private banking services.

What used to happen naturally within standard banking processes may be suddenly constrained by regulation, directly affecting the bank’s relationship with its customers, as well as its ability to upsell to existing customers.

The risk of compliance

Are we moving to an overly bureaucratic world where even the simplest action is subject to a string of onerous processes? Compliance officers are already embedded within every function in a typical financial services institution, as well as at management level. Often the reporting of risk processes sits outside formal line functions and end up going straight to the board. This can have a stifling effect on innovation, with potentially negative consequences for customer service.

A typical banking environment is already creaking under the weight of close to 100 acts, which makes it difficult to take the calculated risks needed to develop and launch innovative new banking products. Entire new industries could now emerge, focusing purely on the matter of compliance and associated litigation. GDPR already requires the services of Data Protection Officers, but the growing complexity of regulatory compliance could add a swathe of new job functions and disciplines. None of this points to the type of innovation that the modern titans of business are renowned for.

A three-step plan of action

So how must banks and other financial services firms respond? I would argue there are three main elements to successfully navigating the immediate impact of the new regulations:

Firstly, ensuring that the technologies you use to secure, manage and store personal data is sufficiently robust. Modern financial services providers have a wealth of customer data at their disposal, including unstructured data from non-traditional sources such as social media. The tools they use to process and safeguard this data needs to be able to withstand the threats posed by potential data breaches and malicious attacks.

Secondly, rethinking the core organisational processes governing their interactions with customers. This includes the internal measures for setting terms and conditions, how customers are informed of their intention to use their data, and how risk is assessed. A customer applying for medical insurance will disclose deeply personal information about themselves to the insurance provider: it is imperative the insurer provides reassurance that the customer’s data will be treated respectfully and with discretion and with their express permission.

Thirdly, financial services firms need to define a core set of principles for how they treat customers and what constitutes fair treatment. This should be an extension of a broader organisational focus on treating customers fairly, and can go some way to repairing the trust deficit between the financial services industry and the customers they serve.

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