Blogs > Liberty and Power > Cell phones in Africa

Aug 20, 2007 4:45 pm

Cell phones in Africa

“We all misread the market,” said South African Michael Joseph, chief executive officer of Safaricom, one of two cellular-telephone service providers in Kenya.

This is a quote from a fascinating AP story about how the use of cell phones is skyrocketing in Africa. According to the story:
The mistake, providers say, was to make plans based on gross domestic product figures, which ignore the strong informal economy, and to assume that because landline use was low, there was little demand for phones.

And more:
Harun is one of a rapidly swelling army of wired-up Africans — an estimated 100 million of the continent’s 906 million people. Another is Omar Abdulla Saidi, phoning in from his sailboat on the Zanzibar coast looking for the port that will give him the biggest profit on his freshly caught red snapper, tuna and shellfish.
Just another lesson showing that capitalism raises living standards and is capable of overcoming some pretty formidable barriers put in its way by the state.



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Sheldon Richman - 10/25/2005

If farmers with cell phones can more quickly find the most lucrative markets for their products, then their living standards will be raised. It's another step away from subsistance farming. No one said technology is a sufficient condition for progress. And let's not quibble about terms. By capitalism, I mean free markets, by which I mean individual freedom.

Sergio Alejandro M?ndez - 10/24/2005

It may be the case that "capitalism" raises living standards on third world countries (i doubt it...maybe "free trade", but not capitalism). But I fail to see it in this case. Yes, Africans will have cell phones, yet they continue to starve and lack of medecines. Which shows that capitalism is certainly effective in creating artificials needs, even in people who lack the most basic stuff...

Lisa Casanova - 10/23/2005

A friend who was in the Peace Corps in Cameroon witnessed this firsthand. She had an interesting observation about the effect of cell phones. The region of the country where she lived was the stronghold of a political party opposed to the one in power. There were not very many landlines, and those that existed in that part of the country somehow seemed to get cut right around the time that elections heated up. Cell phones could actually help circumvent government control of what communications infrastructure there was.