Mobile internet usage has grown tremendously, almost matching the number of fixed lines. Africa is know to be a mobile services continent and there is now research figures showing the level of growth.

Research commissioned by mobile advertising network, Twinpine, has revealed that mobile penetration is driving internet usage across West Africa and playing a fundamental role in economic growth. The study analyzed mobile usage across Nigeria, Ghana and the Ivory Coast was carried out in conjunction with Kenya-based iHub Research

The study found that mobile subscription in the three countries has more than doubled between 2007 and 2011, with a combined total of over 130 million. Mobile internet use has also grown significantly in recent years to reach penetration levels almost equal to fixed line use. For example, in Nigeria fixed internet usage stands at 28% compared to 26% for mobile internet usage.  While in Ghana fixed internet subscriptions are at 10% and mobile internet at 9%.

Despite the growth in mobile, total internet usage is still below half of the total population in these countries. This is a result of lack of fixed line internet infrastructure within much of Africa, hindering internet adoption rates. Mobile internet is changing this trend and bringing internet to the masses

The research shows that mobile internet penetration will continue to grow in the next year, and as such, it is clear from the data that mobile internet use is set to surpass fixed line internet. A contributing factor is the uptake of smartphones by young people who access the internet and use social networks from these devices. The research found that facebook is the most popular website visited on phones across the three countries.

Elo Umeh, CEO Twinpine and Co-chair of the Mobile Marketing Association, West Africa said: “Poor fixed line infrastructure in Africa has acted as a barrier to internet adoption for the majority of people, and is the reason for limited broadband adoption across the continent. However, the exponential growth of the mobile market in Africa is closing the digital divide by giving the African population widespread access to a rich variety of affordable mobile technologies. As the research shows, mobile internet is set to become the primary method of going online.”

The growth of mobile in Africa will increase. For example the UN’s 2010 World Population Prospects study found that 42.8% of the Nigerian population is under 14. As these users come of age, there will be an explosion in mobile and internet usage presenting local and international brands with a huge new consumer audience to engage with.

Umeh added that: “…it is the time for international brands and publishers to tap into the African mobile boom to maximize the revenue potential of mobile advertising. Already Nigeria, Ghana and the Ivory Coast are achieving high monthly advertising impressions – Nigeria is especially strong with 3 billion impressions a month.

However, to ensure brands deliver the most impactful campaigns it is critical they do not approach Africa as a single entity; they must develop a rich understanding of each and every one of the continent’s 54 nations. Working with the local mobile advertising networks like Twinpine will give them instant access to a wealth of local knowledge from the start, greatly reducing time to market.”