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History

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Published by Adekunle Yusuf

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Published by: Adekunle Yusuf on Dec 13, 2010
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Introduction
Though it came into the continent many years ago like anunexpected visitor, cell phone has become an inseparablecompanion of most Africans. It has not just become a new dailyfixture in the lives of inhabitants of the world’s second most populous continent, mobile phone is fast replacing its old cousin,analog telephony. Since its arrival in the late 1990s, mobiletelephony has continued to redraw Africa’s social architecture,with more than 90 per cent of telephones in the continent beingmobile phones
1
. Like their counterparts in other climes, a largechunk of Africa’s estimated one billion people have embraced thissocial revolution, using this sweetheart consumer technology to break barriers that hitherto existed in all sphere of their lives.
2 
Because this leveler provides the much-needed template fostaying in touch with their loved ones, transacting businesses moreeasily, and reaping many other gains from cheap telephony, mobile
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 12,2010)
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” in the Journal of Information Technologies and InternationalDevelopment. Volume 4, Number 4, Fall/Winter 2008.
 
 phone means more than a new communication device to manyecstatic Africans.Indeed, cheaptelephony has become a tool of empowerment,one that is fastopening up afloodgate oopportunities inknowledgedisseminationand harnessinghuge economic and technological potential existing in sub-SaharanAfrica.
3
This mood was captured very succinctly in a landmark study of the impact of mobile telephony on the social, economicand political landscape of the continent:
4
 
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/(accessed onOctober 30, 2010)
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)
 
Map of 
 
One in fifty Africans had access to a mobile phone in 2000 and by2008 the figure was one in three. This is a revolution in terms of voice communication, especially for areas where land lines werestill rare at the end of the 20
th
century. …this new technology is(re)shaping social realities in African societies and how Africansand their societies are, in turn, shaping the technologies of communication.
Given its pervasiveness inAfrica, mobilecommunicationis speculated to be the region’ssecond most-used informationandcommunication technology in the 21
st
century – besides radio.
5
Bythe end of 2009, there were 454.8 million mobile phonesubscribers in Africa.
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Yet, the horizon appears very bright and
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 (accessed on November 2, 2010)
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)

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