Africa’s increased use of cell phones changing culture

Mobile phone subscriptions are sweeping across the African continent like never before. After years of technological repression caused by colonial rule, Africa’s mobile phone usage in the 21st century has gone viral.  At the Africa Com 2013 conference in Cape Town, Africa, annual mobility reports were revealed.  It was reported that mobile phone subscriptions had increased in Africa about seven percent.  Ericsson, a technology manufacturing company and a vendor at the Africa Com 2013 conference, stated that currently in Africa, there are “over 800 million mobile subscriptions, which contributes to the 6.6 billion mobile subscriptions globally.”  This number is expected to increase by 2019 to approximately 9.3 billion.

Mobile phone subscription in African has increased in popularity, which is attributed to low-priced smart phones with innovative features like social media capabilities. The accessibility to media platforms such as Mxit, Facebook and Twitter provides a new socio-cultural global public sphere for people to converse and receive new ideas from all over the world, which formulates culture.   Smartphones have a host of programs like Mxit, which is a chat room designed for a user to communicate one-on-one or with a group based on a particular theme or region.

Furthermore, African people use a variety of message services such as Short Message Service (SMS messages) which provides a free means of communication those in rural remote areas, where funds are scarce.  Mobile phones even assist in the development of businesses throughout Africa with the help of applications like M-PESA (‘M’ for Mobile and pesa means money in Swahili), which allows funds to be transferred electronically into hard currency for families, friends and businesses.

This concept is great for sending money home to rural or urban areas.  It’s no wonder mobile phone subscriptions have increased because social media is becoming the fastest and the most efficient way to connect with others.

Madeline Smith is an M.S. student at SIUC.  Her research interests include how
traditional and non-traditional media outlets are used for progressive social change.