Kenya’s unique mobile penetration at 61 percent is the highest in the region, ahead of Zambia (58 percent), Tanzania (54 percent), Nigeria (47 percent), Uganda (43 percent) and the Democratic Republic of Congo (43 percent). ALSO READ: Divisive alcohol, SIM card taxes up for vote The Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) counts multiple SIM cards in a process that saw it place the country’s mobile uptake at more than 100 percent in the quarter ended December 2021.
Kenya’s mobile user base increased by 61 percent to 33.5 million last year. Total mobile subscribers increased by roughly 610,000 from 32.94 million in 2020, when the penetration rate was likewise 61 percent of the population. Airtel Africa, which operates in Kenya and other regional countries, released the data, which eliminates the influence of dual SIM card ownership when analysing mobile penetration.
Airtel says its report on unique mobile penetration, defined as the number of mobile phone owners as a percentage of the total population, is derived from market analysts. The finding shows the extent of multiple SIM card ownership, which has been attributed to subscribers seeking to benefit from lower prices by rival telcos. Research firm GeoPoll notes that it is common for individuals to own multiple SIM cards in sub-Saharan Africa, switching between them to take advantage of a particular network’s deals or to maintain service when one network goes down.
Safaricom, Airtel and Telkom Kenya have many different permanent and temporary offerings across voice, data, mobile money and messaging services, with consumers buying multiple SIM cards from the rivals for use when it suits them. Some subscribers use one SIM card predominantly but may maintain an older line to enable their contacts to reach them. This problem was meant to be solved by mobile number portability but the service allowing customers to migrate to another telco without changing the number has had a dismal uptake.
“The number of active mobile subscriptions was 65.08 million, as at December 31, 2021,” CA said in its report for the quarter ended December 2021. At the same time, if an individual does not own a phone, they may have access to someone else’s. Airtel, for instance, found that there were 55 million SIM cards in the year ended December 2021, exceeding the country’s population of 49 million people in the same period.