Kenya leaps to 6th position in number of cellphones in Africa By A CORRESPONDENT THE EAST AFRICAN Kenya has leapfrogged into sixth position in the ranking of nations with the highest number of mobile phones in Africa, the International Telecommunications Union has said. The number of mobile phones in Kenya exceeded 11.5 million by the end of last year, barely seven years after the sector was privatised, it said. Countries with more connections are South Africa (42.3 million), Nigeria (40.4 million) Egypt (30 million), Algeria (21.5 million) and Morocco (20 million). According to the ITU, Tanzania was seventh with nearly eight million subscribers by the end of the year. Uganda, which was among the first African countries to liberalise mobile telephony, had over 4.1 million subscribers. At 10th position, Sudan had seven million subscribers, consolidating the regions position as the growth engine of the continents mobile phone industry. In 2000, in contrast, South Africa accounted for over half of all Africas mobile subscribers. By 2007, however, almost 85 per cent were in other countries. The figures were released at the Telecom Africa conference held in Cairo, Egypt which ended last week, in an ITU report entitled, African Telecommunication/ICT Indicators 2008, an overview of key sector developments in various countries. Africa remains the region with the highest annual growth rate in mobile subscribers and added no less than 65 million new subscribers during 2007, said the report. Mobile penetration has risen from just one in 50 people at the beginning of this century to almost one third of the population today, it added. According to ITU, at the beginning of 2008, there were over a quarter of a billion mobile subscribers on the continent. The dramatic growth in mobile telephony in the region was recently brought into sharp focus during the initial public offer of a 25 per cent government stake in Safaricom, Kenyas leading mobile phone provider with an estimated 80 per cent market share. The government was hoping to raise just Ksh50 billion ($793 million at current exchange rates), but preliminary results indicate that the issue received applications to the tune of Ksh200 billion ($3.2 billion) due to overwhelming investor interest. Despite East Africas leading position, some smaller African countries have higher penetration, with Seychelles leading with 90 phones per every 100 people. Other countries that are doing well are Gabon (88 phones per 100 people), South Africa (87), Tunisia (76), Botswana (76) and Mauritius (74). The average for the continent is about 28 phones for every 100 people the same as Kenyas figure.