Kenya’s mobile uptake leads region’s at 62pc

Market News

Kenya’s mobile uptake leads region’s at 62pc

A mobile subscriber operates her phone outside a MOBIKASH office in Nyeri office. PHOTO | JOSEPH KANYI 

The percentage of people owning a mobile phone in Kenya stands at 62 percent, indicating significant growth opportunity for mobile service providers.

The statistic, which weeds out the impact of multiple SIM cards ownership in assessing mobile penetration, has been published by Airtel Africa, which operates in Kenya and other regional markets.

Kenya’s unique mobile penetration is the highest in the region, ahead of Zambia (54 percent), Tanzania (49 percent), Nigeria (45 percent), Uganda (42 percent) and Democratic Republic of Congo (39 percent).

The Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) counts multiple SIM cards in a process that saw it place the country’s mobile uptake at 114.8 percent in the quarter ended December 2019.

Airtel says its report on unique mobile penetration, defined as the number of mobile phone owners as a percentage of the total population, is derived from market analysts.


The finding shows the extent of multiple SIM card ownership, which has been attributed to subscribers seeking to benefit from lower prices by rival telecommunications firms.

Airtel, for instance, found that there were 55 million SIM cards in the year ended December 2019, exceeding the country’s population of 49 million people in the same period.

“Mobile (SIM) penetration in the country remains high partly due to multiple SIM ownership by consumers,” CA said in its report for the quarter ended December 2019.

“Moreover, because Kenyan consumers are becoming more price-point sensitive, they are likely to continue acquiring multiple SIM cards in a bid to benefit from the various special plans offered by various operators.”

Safaricom #ticker:SCOM, Airtel and Telkom Kenya have many different permanent and temporary offerings across voice, data, mobile money and messaging services, with consumers buying multiple SIM cards from the rivals for use when it suits them.

Some subscribers use one SIM card predominantly but may maintain an older line to enable their contacts to reach them. This problem was meant to be solved by mobile number portability but the service allowing customers to migrate to another telco without changing the number has had a dismal uptake.

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