Analysts have revealed that the number of mobile users in Africa is growing at double the rate of the rest of the globe. From 1999 through 2004, mobile subscribers in Africa jumped to 76.8 million, from 7.5 million. The technology revolution has come to African countries via the mobile phone, not the personal computer, as it did in America and Europe. And just as the internet encouraged the creation of some digital firms, the mobile phone boom in Africa is creating many opportunities, but tailored to local needs.
South Africans have launched the first text based entertainment, fiction written specifically for the mobile phone. Novel Idea inspires innovative content creation on the mobile platform. The pilot, which launched on 7 July 2008, is apparently the first time short fiction has been specifically commissioned for delivery via mobile phones in Africa. It has also been a unique way to promote professional South African writers.
In Kenya, there is a service called M-Pesa. This is simply an extra line on the mobile phone menu that says: "Send Money". With this, people go to an office, transfer funds onto their phone account, and then send them to their friends, or family, or anybody else with a mobile. The receivers then go to an office, show the code on the mobile and some ID, and collect the cash.
I remember, when mobile phones were first introduced, how people in the remote villages were so eager for service that they built ‘treehouses’ to catch signals from distant mobile phone masts. I remember how demand for air time was so strong in Nigeria that from late 2002 to early 2003 operators there were forced to suspend the sale of SIM cards, while they strengthened their networks. Today, when I think of how the mobile phone has influenced the lives of Africans, I think of the old woman unable even to write her last name, telling customers to call her mobile phone if they want to buy the fish she sells.