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Celeste Bothma

5G in Africa. A matter of when not if.

“With more than 1.2 billion connections and over 650 million unique mobile users by the end ...

By Celeste Bothma

Regional Director

“With more than 1.2 billion connections and over 650 million unique mobile users by the end of 2022, mobile has a greater reach in Africa than any other technology”. This is the statement from GSMA Intelligence, the data gathering and research organization, in their recent report “5G in Africa: realizing the potential.” 

5G is expected to reach over 2 billion connections, globally, by the end of 2025 and more than double that by 2030 (5.3 billion). What’s more interesting to note is the adoption rate of 5G. Since first launching, 5G has taken just four years to adopt, compared to eight years for 4G and 11 years for 3G. The rollout of 5G in Africa won’t happen in the immediate future as 4G is still in its infancy stages (just 25% of connections are 4G in Africa). The next decade will be a pivotal moment for telecommunications in Africa due to 4G being adopted by the mass market and 5G starting its rollout.

The most exciting part about 5G in Africa is its ability to improve connectivity for homes and businesses (without reliance on fixed broadband), boost tech innovation; and meeting the demands of consumers, 5G will reshape the way people in Africa live. 

When and how 5G will grow in Africa

Given that 5G only started in Africa in 2020, during the covid pandemic, there are now 5G networks in 10 countries and it is predicted to result in 340 million 5G connections by the beginning of 2030. 

“Together, 4G and 5G will account for nearly two-thirds of total mobile connections at the end of 2030.”

According to the GSMA Intelligence report, in the coming years, mobile operators will invest and focus on the following areas:

  • Investments in fibre backhaul
  • Cell site densification
  • Network virtualisation
  • Automation capabilities

However, with 4G still yet to reach its capacity in terms of usage and capital returns for operators, it’s a sensible guess that 5G will probably take a phased approach in terms of its growth and rollout, this is demonstrated by GSMA-ITU 5 Africa survey which shows that 95% of respondents believe the same. 

By the end of the decade, 5G is predicted to increase to 20% of connections, with 4G being dominant with 4G. Both 3G and 2G are expected to decline to reach 32% and 2% of all connections by 2030.

“5G could benefit the African economy by $26 billion between 2021 and 2030.”

How 5G will affect recruitment in Africa

Jerry Lee, Divisional Director, in our Johannesburg office, commented on the impact 5G is having across Africa, “Thanks to 5G’s connectivity infrastructure on enhancing IoT in Africa, in 2023 we are expecting to see a massive increase in demand for IoT Solution Engineers, Cloud Solution Architects and Maintenance Engineer on servicing the existing infrastructures and networks. With this being said, another prospective area for increased activity potentially is Cyber Security recruitment. West Africa, in particular, would see an increase in demand of Fiber Deployment jobs due to the Tech boom in those regions.

On the cusp of enormous benefits

The potential benefits of 5G for Africa are unlimited. The positive impact that it will have on the way people live and the way businesses operate will be incredible and help countries in Africa prosper. Whilst Africa is on the cusp of realizing the potential of having advanced telecoms connectivity, the advancements of 4G still need to be realized. However, if countries across Africa take a phased approach to the rollout of 5G, then they will be keeping pace with the rest of the world and avoid any significant divide in technology. The next decade is shaping up to be very exciting for telecoms jobs in Africa and as a leading telecoms recruitment company, we are delighted to be part of this evolution.

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