In most regions around the world, widespread multi-device usage means that although a mobile-first strategy is certainly key, all devices need to be taken into account. But the Middle East and, in particular, Africa are regions where we can truly talk about mobile-only strategies that can be impactful. And with the increasing affordability and functionality of smartphones meaning that we are unlikely to see ownership rates of other devices in MEA rise in the future, it’s clear that the smartphone must be at the forefront of any discussions of digital strategy in MEA.

This is particularly apparent when we see that 3 in 10 digital consumers across the Middle East & Africa region are truly mobile-only. In comparison, across all 40 countries where we at GlobalWebIndex conduct our research, it’s only 9% of internet users who can be classified as truly mobile-only (not accessing or owning any other connected device). Focus in on some key African markets and figures are even higher – Nigeria leads the way here, with 40% of digital consumers falling into the mobile-only audience.

Key to understand here is the relatively minor role that PCs and laptops have played in the development of the internet in these markets. In most countries around the world, particularly in Europe and North America, consumers are most likely to have been introduced to the internet via computers but in places like Ghana, Kenya, Morocco and Nigeria the fundamental role of devices has been displaced by mobiles. The lack of fixed-line broadband connections has been a crucial factor here, as has the influx of affordable handsets.

This mobile-only environment provides some opportunities for innovative businesses to develop which otherwise would have been impossible due to the cost. And with Africa seeing some of the highest rates of internet uptake, there also exists a significant opportunity for mobile phone manufacturers looking to expand into new markets.

This is particularly apparent given that over half of digital consumers in Africa say they intend to upgrade or buy a mobile within the next year. Ghana stands out here, with 60% looking to buy soon, but it’s Nigeria where purchase intention is strongest (fully three quarters of digital consumers here say they intend to buy/upgrade within a year).

To date, the only global brand that has made a significant impact in these markets is Samsung, which has been particularly successful in Morocco (though is yet to make much of an impression in Nigeria). Clearly, then, there exists a serious opportunity for those challenger brands who have been so successful across Asia to gain new customers in these markets.

But this opportunity for phone brands can be mirrored by many brands with a strong digital offering, provided they properly profile the audience that they expect to target – and for many audiences in the Middle East & Africa, that means truly shifting to a mobile-only strategy.

About the Author.

Felim McGrath is Senior Trends Manager at GlobalWebIndex, an audience profiling company that runs the world’s largest ongoing study on the digital consumer in order to quantify the perceptions and behaviors of every connected consumer in the world.

Felim oversees the GWI’s Trends team, who produce the company’s reports and infographics, as well as their Chart of the Day and GWITrends webinar series. He is a contributor to publications such as The Drum, Campaign Magazine, Bloomberg, The Independent and Admap Magazine.

Before beginning his career in digital consumer insights, he gained a Ph.D in the Social Sciences from Trinity College, Dublin and studied at the University of Cambridge.

By Jim O Brien/CEO

CEO and expert in transport and Mobile tech. A fan 20 years, mobile consultant, Nokia Mobile expert, Former Nokia/Microsoft VIP,Multiple forum tech supporter with worldwide top ranking,Working in the background on mobile technology, Weekly radio show, Featured on the RTE consumer show, Cavan TV and on TRT WORLD. Award winning Technology reviewer and blogger. Security and logisitcs Professional.