By Daniel Hunter

Brands and advertisers who want to reach consumers in Africa should consider mobile as the principal channel for advertising and marketing to consumers thanks to a combination of sustained economic growth, the expansion of mobile services and the rapid uptake of smartphones across the continent, according to a new White Paper published by M&C Saatchi Mobile.

The White Paper dispels a number of common misperceptions about the current state of the African mobile telecoms market and highlights the opportunities that mobile presents as a mass market channel for reaching and engaging with consumers. It shows Africa is a diverse and dynamic market that is experiencing sustained and on-going economic and social growth, with mobile being a key catalyst as the primary source of connection amongst those living in the region.

The White Paper illustrates how, as part of its development, Africa has “leapfrogged” traditional fixed line telecommunications to adopt mobile cellular services instead. As a result, mobile is now the primary means by which many Africans now access the Internet, with some 84 million internet-enabled mobile devices already in circulation.

“Contrary to popular thinking, Africa is not an under-developed region — it’s the second largest and fastest-growing mobile phone market in the world after China,” said James Hilton, Global CEO of M&C Saatchi Mobile.

“The large numbers of African mobile consumers with web-connected smartphones using their device to surf the internet or download apps shows that the assumption that mobile services in Africa are only about SMS and low-end handsets is seriously out of date.”

According to the White Paper, smartphone sales in Africa are expected to account for 15% of the mobile market in Africa in 2014, rising to 40% by 2017. Mobile operators are set to phase out feature phones in favour of smartphones in order to upsell data services to consumers.

A reduction in smartphone prices due to intense competition and the entry of cheaper handset models from Chinese manufacturers that will also drive adoption. The White Paper also charts the growth in app stores alongside smartphone uptake among African mobile users as evidence of Africa’s growing appetite for local mobile content and apps.

The White Paper predicts that as use of the mobile internet in Africa increases, so too does the opportunity for advertisers to use mobile to engage and interact with consumers. It predicts that brands will increasingly treat mobile as the principal digital channel for their brand and acquisition strategies in Africa.

At the same time, brands and advertisers must also be mindful of the cultural, economic and technological diversity of Africa, as well as contrasts in consumer attitudes, which they must consider when planning and creating their mobile campaigns. The White Paper points out that more than 3000 native languages are spoken in Africa, but also observes that a campaign that uses 15 local dialects will reach 85% of the African population.

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