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Mobile phone penetration makes Rwanda the Second Highest in EAC

The number of people connected on mobile networks is on the increase

By Kayitare Jean Bosco

According to the fifth Rwanda population and housing Census – 2022 (RPHC 2022), the mobile phone penetration rate in Rwanda stands at 87.4% the report states.

The RPHC 2022 also found at the national level, 14% of the population aged 10 years and above reported having used the internet (from any location) in the 12 months preceding the Census. Sixty-four percent of them reported using the internet at home.

While Mobile phone ownership increases with age. The results show that 62.9% of resident population aged 21 years and above own a mobile phone while the proportion among those aged 10 years and above was 47.8%.

The ownership of mobile phones tends to be higher among males than women living in urban areas. For instance, 86.2% of males aged 21 years and above vs 79% of females in the sameage range.

According to data from Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA) indicates that the number of Rwandans owning mobile phones increased from 11.5 million in May to 11.7 million in June 2023, indicating a growth rate of 1.44%.

These figures include over 7.2 million subscribers of MTN Rwanda and more than 4.4 million subscribers of Airtel Rwanda. It should be noted that the methodology used by MTN in counting the number of subscribers, the company counts every single simcard it sells tothe user, while RURA the utilities regulatory authority only counts the active sim cards as real users of the service.

Also in Rwanda the ownership of smartphones stands at 26.7% among men and 21% in women respectively.It’s important to note that these numbers represent the mobile phone ownership among a total population of 13,246,394 in Rwanda.

The Chat above shows the ownership of smartphones in Rwanda.

The head of communication in MTN Rwanda ltd Alain Numa says MTN Rwanda PLC had 7 million subscribers by 30th June 2023 and the numbers keep increasing.

‘MacyeMacye phone loan promotion’

Mr Alain Numa head of marketing and communication says the ‘make make phone loan promotion is part of the longer term project and is in line with the government’s commitment in connecting Rwandans by accessing smartphones in an affordable means. He adds.

The data reveals that postpaid subscriptions increased from 168,243 in May 2023 to 169,697 SIM cards in June 2023. Additionally, prepaid subscriptions increased from 11,380,900 SIM cards in May 2023 to 11,545,285 SIM cards in June 2023.

The report states that as of June 2023, the Mobile Penetration Rate, which refers to the number of active SIM cards per the total projected population, has risen to 87.4% compared to 86.4% in May 2023.

Regarding market shares as of June 2023, MTN Rwanda Ltd saw a decrease of 0.7 percentage points to 61.9%, while AIRTEL Rwanda Ltd experienced an increase of the same margin, reaching 38.1%. These figures reflect changes compared to the statistics from May 2023.

The head of marketing and communication at Airtel Rwanda ltd John Magara, also says; “ we had 4,009,787 active subscribers by September 2023” he says.

We are in consultations with the manufactures from China to import more cheap smart phones so as many people can afford to get connected by using our smartphones at a cost of only 20,000 Rwanda francs says  Emmanuel Hamez, the Managing Director of Airtel Rwanda.

The increased mobile phone penetration in Rwanda has resulted in a higher usage of mobile devices for daily activities and cashless transactions.

Easing the cost of money transactions

In the fiscal year 2021/2022, the number of funds transfers through mobile payment channels increased by 58% from 196 million to 310 million transactions. The value of these transactions also rose by 41%, from Rwf4,707 billion to Rwf6,616 billion, as reported by the National Bank of Rwanda (NBR) in November last year.

BNR further reported that transfers through mobile banking channels increased by 35% from 6 million to 8 million transactions. The value of these transactions rose significantly by 140% from Rwf917 billion to Rwf381 billion.

Kalisa Jean de Dieu, a trader in Kinigi Musanze district says; “Business has never been easy, not long ago before the mobile money payment system came in we use to have trouble in getting changed money and giving it back to our clients but, to date we only receive money electronically, its easy process though it we can pay taxes, buy electricity, pay water bills and even pay our Mituelle de Sante for our families”. Happily narrates.

Besides, the number of mobile banking subscribers increased by 18% from 2,080,549 in June 2021 to 2,244,652, and Internet banking subscribers grew by 32% from 106,312 to 140,662 in June 2022. Active mobile payment subscribers also increased by 9% from 5,079,232 in June 2021 to 5,528,109 in June 2022.

Jobs created

Mukandayisaba Louise from Musanze district, says; “Since I became a mobile money agent life has never been the same again. I make some money from profits and of now I can pays school fees for my 2 children and cloth them and manage to pay for their Mituelle de Sante”. She adds.

Clients being attended by Mobile money and Airtel money agents

In terms of the distribution of cashless transactions, transfers through mobile payment channels accounted for the largest share at 70%, followed by transfers via mobile banking at 26%. As for transaction value, transfer through mobile payment accounted for 51% of the total, followed by internet banking at 32%.

Elsewhere in the EAC countries

117.2 percentKenya registered approximately 63.9 million mobile connections (excluding IoT) as of January 2023. The number corresponded to 117.2 percent of the country’s population, indicating the individual use of multiple connections. Since January 2021, Kenya has registered an increase in mobile connections

Whereas Mobile connections in Uganda in 2023 data from GSMA Intelligence shows that there were 30.55 million cellular mobile connections in Uganda at the start of 2023. GSMA Intelligence’s numbers indicate that mobile connections in Uganda were equivalent to 63.8 percent of the total population in January 2023.

While in the united republic of Tanzania Operators Subscriptions Market Shares – September 2023. As of September 2023, the penetration of mobile phones was 83.6%, while that of smartphones was 30.7%

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