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Published by Adekunle Yusuf

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Published by: Adekunle Yusuf on Nov 20, 2010
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Mobile Phones and the Emerging PrivacyInvasion Issues in West Africa
Introduction
Though it came into the continent like an unexpected visitor, the cellphone has become an inseparable companion of most Africans. It has not just become a new daily fixture in the lives of inhabitants of the world’ssecond most populous continent, mobile phone is fast replacing its oldcousin, analog telephony. Since its arrival in the late 1990s, mobiletelephony has continued to redraw Africa’s social architecture, with morethan 90 per cent of telephones lines in the continent being mobile phones
1
.Like their counterparts in other climes, a large chunk of Africa’s estimated 1billion people have embraced this social revolution, using this sweetheartconsumer technology to break barriers that hitherto existed in all sphere of their lives.
2
Because this leveler provides the much-needed template for
1
See Africa - making money at the bottom of the market, available athttp://www.reportlinker.com/ci02083/Mobile- Telephony.html/coverage/World:Africa/mode/premium(accessed on November 12)
2
With 49 per cent annual growth rate between 2002-2007, as opposed to Europe’s17 per cent, Africa’s mobile telephony is poised to achieve enormous expansionpotential predicted for it. Identifying informational challenges as the bane of thegrowth of commerce in developing countries, Abi Jagun, Richard Heeks and JasonWhalley concluded that mobile technology possessed the magic wand to solving theproblems militating against the growth of micro enterprises in evolving economies.See The Impact of Mobile Telephony on Developing Country Micro-Enterprises: ANigerian Case Study. Journal of Information Technologies and International
 
staying in touch with their loved ones, transacting businesses more easily,and reaping many other gains from cheap telephony, mobile phone meansmore than a new communication device to many ecstatic Africans.Indeed, cheap telephony has become a tool of empowerment, one thatis fast opening up a floodgate of opportunities in knowledge disseminationand harnessing huge economic and technological potential existing in sub-Saharan Africa.
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This mood was captured very succinctly in a landmark study of the impact of mobile telephony on the social, economic andpolitical landscape of the continent:
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One in fifty Africans had access to a mobile phone in2000 and by 2008 the figure was one in three. This isa revolution in terms of voice communication,especially for areas where land lines were still rare at the end of the 20
th
century. …this new technology is(re)shaping social realities in African societies and how Africans and their societies are, in turn, shapingthe technologies of communication.
Given its pervasiveness in Africa, mobile communication isspeculated to be the region’s second most-used information and
Development. Volume 4, Number 4, Fall/Winter 2008.
3
Read further in Information, Communication, and Power: Mobile Phones as a Tool forEmpowering Women in Sub-Saharan Africa;http://www.simoncolumbus.com/2010/10/25/information-communication-and-power-mobile-phones-as-a-tool-for-empowering-women-in-sub-saharan-africa/
4
For a cartographical analysis and description of how this technology has altered thecultural, social, economic and political space in Africa, see Mirjam de Bruijin, FrancisB. Nyamnjoh and Inge Brinkman (2009: 11-22)
 
communication technology in the 21
st
century – besides radio.
5
By the end of 2009, there were 454.8 million mobile phone subscribers in Africa.
6
Yet, thehorizon appears very bright and promising for the sector in this developingworld. Going by the latest statistics of the International TelecommunicationUnion, ITU, as global mobile phone connection is expected to jump from5.3 billion in 2010 to 7.1 billion in 2014, the emerging markets of Africa andAsia will contribute the lion’s share of this projected boom.
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Out of a total53 countries in Africa, West Africa’s 16 nations, which constituted the mainstudy area of the current research, accounted for 30 per cent of thecontinent’s entire mobile technology subscriber base by the close of 2009.The remaining three sub-regions, 37 countries in all, provided 70 per cent.(See the diagram 1 below).
5
See Gender Assessment of ICT Access and Usage in Africa, volume 1 2010 PolicyPaper 5; sourced from Research ICTAfrica:http://www.researchictafrica.net/new/images/uploads/Gender_Paper_May_2010.pdf 
6
Although the global credit crunch reared its ugly head in the African telecom sectorin 2009, the region recorded consistent impressive growth record, having 22 per centgrowth fact sheet in 2009, 35 per cent in 2008 and 42 per cent in 2007. Read furtherin
(accessed onNovember 3, 2010)
7
Seehttp://www.itu.int/ITU-D/ict/newslog/

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