Image from medafricatimes.com
The report also states the speed at which mobile coverage has been developing compared to electricity accessibility, which has spread at “a snail's pace”.
It says whereas mobile coverage reaches 95 percent of the population, 76 percent of those in rural areas have with limited access to electricity, hugely affecting the mobile penetration rate.
Safaricom's solar energy programme to enhance the reach of electricity to rural citizens is commendable, according to GSMA, and has opened new opportunities for businesses such as phone charging stations.
The solar programme, launched in conjunction with M-KOPA, a clean energy company in Nairobi, enables users to buy solar energy units and pay back the cost using the M-Pesa mobile money transfer service.
“The large majority of the population lives in rural areas (approximately 76 percent) where grid power distribution and reliability remains poor. Even where accessibility is an option, affordability for (formal) grid connectivity is an obstacle,” the report said.
“All mobile value added services (VAS) that a mobile can deliver, such as access to medical advice and mobile wallets, in rural areas have energy requirements at a high cost. The number of mobile subscribers living without easily accessible electricity in Kenya is set to increase unless off-grid energy services improve dramatically,” GSMA stated.
Though this seems to be a lost opportunity for mobile operators, the report suggests there is a bigger opportunity to develop energy solutions that can leverage on the human and physical infrastructure.