A new research report commissioned by Zain and Ericsson highlights the socio-economic impact of mobile telephony in Sudan. It reveals how mobile communications in Sudan is creating jobs, generating wealth and saving lives.
Zain and Ericsson have commissioned and published what has been described as a groundbreaking report highlighting the social and economic impact of mobile communications in Sudan; Zain is the biggest operator in Sudan with a customer market share of 60%.
Titled Socio-Economic Impact of Mobile Communications in Sudan, the report that builds on two years of research and covers four basic areas: Khartoum, Juba in the South, Darfur, and Northern Sudan. The study comprises three separate sub-reports, covering many dimensions of social and economic development:
- The Nile Connection, which examines the social and anthropological factors affecting how people have traditionally - and today - communicate in Sudan (by de Bruijn and Brinkman);
- Economic Impact of Mobile Communications in Sudan, a financial analysis of the economic factors, considering both supply and demand side effects (by Deloitte LLP, the business advisory firm); and
- Sudan: Mobile Communication a driver for growth? This survey assesses the needs of mobile customers in Sudan, with more than 1,000 survey respondents from the four different areas (by Majanen and Kruse).
Mobile telephony in Sudan has gone through a period of substantial development and change. The reports highlight that in 2008 the total economic benefit of the mobile industry to the Sudanese economy contributed US$2.4 billion to the Sudanese economy, at the time 4% of GDP, with a possible additional 1% in hidden impact.
In addition, the report draws attention to the fact that as well as providing over 40,000 jobs, the sector can claim to be responsible for a 0.12% growth in GDP for every 1% increase in market penetration. Given also that at the end of 2008 market penetration was still only at 28% or roughly 10 million customers, there is great potential for growth for the sector and for the benefit of the Sudanese economy as a whole. It is worth noting that the penetration rate at the end of 2009 exceeded 42% or 15 million customers. The mobile phone is also an important bridge to the Sudanese Diaspora worldwide with a highly significant, if not precisely calculable, contribution to GDP.
Elaine Weidman-Grunewald, Ericsson’s Vice-President for Sustainability & Corporate Responsibility, said, "Mobile communications has been proven to help in the development and prosperity of societies, especially in developing countries. As part of our commitment to making communications more affordable and accessible for all, we undertook this study together with Zain to quantify the key economic and social impacts that communications is having on the Sudanese society, one of Africa's fastest growing mobile markets. The study finds that mobile communications is greatly aiding the micro-economic activities of traders and entrepreneurs in Sudan, as well as helping families remain in contact across the rural-urban divide of the country."
The main thrust of the report, however, demonstrates how mobile telephony has not only created direct employment within the telecom sector itself but has also had a major impact on Sudanese agriculture, the nation’s largest industry, not least by providing valuable weather updates and warnings, by supporting a mobile marketplace which links produce-buyers to sellers, by providing up- to-date market pricing, and by supporting auctions and bidding.
On a social level, as networks extend beyond the Khartoum region to include South Sudan and even conflict-ridden Darfur, mobile telephony has also allowed families to stay in contact in time of conflict, migration, and large population displacements. It has also been invaluable in supporting health, education, and family, especially in the refugee camps.
The scale of mobile sector investment within total foreign investment is substantial. Deloittes estimates that in 2008 mobile network operators invested over US$108 million in new capital equipment, while foreign ownership of the fixed operators has also driven further inward investment especially on mobile network technology.
The findings also drew praise from Jeffrey D Sachs, the Director of the Earth Institute, and Special Advisor to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. “The report underscores the central fact that mobile telephony offers a remarkable, indeed unique, tool for economic development, and can even reach the poorest of the poor through creative approaches by the providers and users,” said Professor Sachs, who has described mobile telephony as “the single most transformative technology development” of recent times.
A download of the complete report is available from the Zain website.