- - Wednesday, November 9, 2011


Industry says Africa is fastest-growing mobile market

JOHANNESBURG | Africa is the world’s fastest-growing mobile phone market, an industry group report said Wednesday, citing the continent’s innovative uses for cellphones.

Gertrude Kitongo uses hers as a radio, library, cinema, instant messenger and bank teller. She even makes calls on it.

“I use my phone for everything,” said the 24-year-old Kenyan-Ugandan who exemplifies Africa’s cosmopolitan, on-the-move cellphone user.

Mobile penetration in Africa has reached 649 million connections, second only to Asia, said a report released Wednesday by the industry organization GSMA, or Groupe Speciale Mobile Association.

For each of the past five years, the number of subscribers across Africa has grown by almost 20 percent and is expected to reach 738 million by the end of next year.

Researchers have used cellphone technology to track animals for wildlife studies. Africans use cellphones to make payments across borders.

Peter Lyons, a GSMA policy analyst, said in an interview Wednesday that a lack of access for many Africans to formal banking and financial services has spurred innovation.

In Kenya, a mobile phone banking service is all the rage. It allows people without bank accounts to transfer money instantly between phones.

The system uses the phone’s SIM card like a bank card. Users can load money onto their phones at small brokers or from bank accounts and send it to pay bills. The recipients can swap the credit on their phones for cash.

More than 50 countries, including Afghanistan, have such services.


U.N. says repression endangers presidential vote

JOHANNESBURG | Repression by Congo’s government ahead of this month’s critical presidential election could lead to even more violence in the Central African nation struggling after decades of dictatorship and civil war, the United Nations warned Wednesday.

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