The insider’s guide to mobile Web and marketing in Nigeria
Nigeria is the largest mobile market in Africa and the tenth largest in the world. With low PC and fixed-line penetration, there’s little surprise that the mobile device has long-since surpassed the PC as the way that Nigerians access the Web. This guide collects all available mobile facts and stats and details all the movers and shakers in this vast mobile market.
Nigeria – Africa’s most populous nation – recently surpassed 100 million active mobile subscriptions, which equates to around 65.8 percent of the population. Mobile subscribers outnumber fixed lines almost 219:1 and PC penetration is very low, which makes the mobile device the de facto communications device for calls, messaging and accessing the Web. Mobile access to the Internet overtook PC access in October 2011.
One of the issues holding back this vast mobile market is lack of official data – the government, the regulator and operators seem reluctant to share information that is commonly available in other countries – which makes it harder for companies to make strategic investments in mobile.
Your guide to Nigeria is Eniola Moronfolu, an economist, researcher and operations lead for Twinpine, a pan-African mobile advertising network, based in Lagos, Nigeria.
• mobiThinking also contributed to this guide.
• This guide was published in November 2012.
Insider’s guide to mobile in: Nigeria • Kenya • Brazil • France • Japan • Canada • Germany • USA • India • UK • Australia • Spain • South Africa • Country guides homepage
How mobile is Nigerian population?
According to the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), there were 106,892,750 active mobile subscriptions in Nigeria, at the end of September 2012. By comparison there are only 474,345 fixed lines. The Nigerian population is around 162.5 million people, according to World Bank estimates, which means mobile penetration is around 63.8 percent. This does not necessarily mean that two out of three Nigerians have a mobile phone, as it is common for individuals to have more than one SIM card and handsets with multiple SIMs are becoming increasingly popular across Africa.
Mobile subscriptions are forecast to grow rapidly, reaching 130 million, equivalent to a penetration rate of around 70.7 percent, by the end of 2016, according to Business Monitor International.
Active telephony subscribers in Nigeria in September 2011 and 2012
Subscribers in Sept 2011
Subscribers in Sept 2012
Share of market
Total telecom connections
Subscribers by operator in September 2011 and 2012
Subscribers in Sept 2011
Subscribers in Sept 2012
Share of mobile market
MTN Nigeria Communications
Celtel Nigeria Limited (Airtel)
EMTS Limited (Etisalat)
Other mobile including CDMA
Source: NCC, Sept 2012
What are the characteristics of Nigerian mobile market?
• There are four main mobile network operators. MTN Nigeria is the most popular operator, by far, with two-fifths of mobile subscribers, Globacom and Celtel/Airtel have around one-fifth and EMTS (Etisalat) has a tenth. These four are all GSM networks. The majority of Nigerian mobile users are on GSM, though 3 percent are still using CDMA networks (though this is declining).
• Neither the mobile operators nor the regulator, NCC, publish much data beyond core subscriber numbers. They don’t publicize the number of 3G subscribers, mobile Web users, mobile subscribers on pre-pay or post-pay contracts or mobile-money subscribers, for example.
• Informa WCIS estimates that at the end of 2012 there are 10.5 million 3G subscribers in Nigeria, that is about 6 percent of the population.
• The majority of Nigerians use feature phones. But the Nigerians’ growing love of social media and messaging (see the number of social networks in the Nigerian top mobile Websites see below), coupled with the increasing availability of more affordable low-end smartphones, such as the Samsung Galaxy Pocket and the Nokia Asha 202 is starting to change the market. The Nokia Asha is a dual SIM phone – multiple SIM handsets are increasingly popular across Africa as people juggle different mobile accounts.
• Mobile manufacturers have started importing phones that have social networking apps ready-integrated. BlackBerry devices are becoming popular with Nigerian youths and young adults. In fact, RIM claims to be the number one smartphone vendor in Nigeria (and Africa), though there is no independent evidence to back this up. Nokia smartphones are cheaper than BlackBerry and price is a very big deal for Nigerians.
• Statistics for handset sales are unavailable, but it is clear from research that analyses Web visits from mobile devices in Nigeria that Nokia is dominant – 74 percent of mobile visits come from Nokia devices, according to StatCounter, while the top 10 handsets with the Opera mobile browser installed are all Nokia. According to StatCounter, Opera is the most popular mobile browser Nigeria with 77 percent market share, which makes Opera’s stats a credible source.
Device manufacturer market share in Nigeria (StatCounter)
most popular handsets in Nigeria (Opera)
Top 10 handsets
Nokia 5130 XpressMusic
Source: StatCounter, September 2012
Source: Opera (July 2012)
What distinguishes mobile in Nigeria from a) the rest of Africa? b) other leading mobile markets worldwide?
• Nigeria is the largest country in Africa, with a population (162.5 million) that is almost twice as large as the second and third largest nations, Ethiopia and Egypt, and the seventh largest nation in the world. With over 100 million mobile subscribers, it is also the largest mobile market in Africa and the tenth largest mobile market in the world.
• Culturally, Nigeria is very diverse with over 250 different tribes, and has more than 280 languages. Any organization that wants to penetrate the economy must be ready to connect with the masses on a personal level – one of the ways to do this is to speak their language. Nokia is the only device manufacturer to take this on board and has integrated the three major languages, Igbo, Yoruba and Hausa, into its handsets – these often referred to as WaZoBia phones, Wa for Yoruba, Zo for Hausa, Bia for Igbo. Little wonder that Nokia is such a dominant supplier in this country.
• The level of infrastructure in Nigeria remains an issue, but the telecoms sector is seeing rapid improvements following sustained investment from local and foreign investors. The installation of fiber-optic cables to connect the country to rest of the world and advances in the quality of Internet broadband and services is helping to make Nigeria one of the more advanced and competitive markets in Africa. At the same time the Government is on a drive to transform country into a knowledge-based economy. For example, in August 2012 the government announced a fund to invest 15 million in local technology startups.
How do they use their mobile devices?
There is little data on how Nigerians use their mobile phones, apart from anecdotal evidence about the rising popularity of social networking and instant messaging. Internet World Stats estimates (June 2012) that there are now 5 million Facebook subscribers in Nigeria, which would make it the second largest Facebook community in Africa after Egypt. Independent research organizations have been slow to step in to provide the data craved by businesses interested in engaging Nigeria’s large mobile populous. One exception is the international research organization TNS. The following data is extracted from TNS global surveys at Mobile Life:
How Nigerian’s use their mobile phones
Mobile phone use
Less than 1%
Source: TNS Mobile Life
How does mobile Web usage compare to fixed Internet usage?
• As mentioned above, it is difficult to source official data on either 3G penetration or mobile Internet usage in Nigeria. There is also little in the way of official Internet usage stats as a whole (i.e. from PCs and mobile devices).
• Informa WCIS estimates that at the end of 2012 there are 10.5 million 3G subscribers in Nigeria, that is about 6 percent of the population. 3G is commonly taken to be the minimum required for mobile broadband.
• Internet World Stats, estimates that there are 45 million Nigerians have access to the Internet. If correct, this is more than twice as many Internet subscribers as the number two country in Africa, Egypt, and means that Internet penetration is 27.8 percent. This figure should be taken with some caution, however. A speech by the Minister for Communication in September 2012 describes this 45 million as an estimate of the number of Nigerians who have used the Internet at least once. This is not the same as active Internet users. 2011 The Annual Socio-Economic Report: Access to ICT suggests that Internet access may actually be as low as 4.1 percent (but this may just refer to PC Internet).
• Growth of the Internet has been hindered by the country’s underdeveloped and unreliable fixed-line infrastructure – according to the regulator, NCC, there are only 474,345 active fixed lines in a country of 162.5 million people. But increased competition – there are more than more than 400 licensed ISPs – together with wireless broadband technology has started to rectify that.
• Access to PCs in Nigeria is low. The Annual Socio-Economic Report: Access to ICT suggests that as few as 4.5 percent of Nigerians have access to personal computer (PC) and ownership is less than 1 percent.
• These factors, coupled with a cell-phone penetration of 63.8 percent, inevitably leads to mobile devices (with Internet access) becoming people’s primary means to access the Internet.
• The share of Nigerian Internet traffic coming from mobile devices has risen rapidly. In October 2010, 25.5 percent of Nigerian hits on sites monitored by StatCounter came from mobile devices, in October 2011, mobile overtook PC, and in October 2012 mobile was 54.8 percent.
What are the key mobile marketing activities for companies – mobile Web; mobile advertising; text campaigns; opt-in lists; applications etc.?
• For close to a decade, SMS marketing has been considered the most effective means of propagating information to a large number of people in Nigeria. The poor state of infrastructure and lack of fixed and slow growth of mobile broadband Internet across the country has made it difficult for brands and businesses to explore other means of mass communication.
• For SMS marketing, advertisers often outsource the campaign to mobile Value Added Service (VAS) providers who specialize in SMS broadcast services. Opt-in-based advertising campaigns often require the advertiser to work directly with the mobile operator as they have more detailed information on their subscribers that is not available to VAS providers. Opt-in mobile campaigns are much more expensive than ‘blind’ SMS campaigns. Unilever recently used opt-in SMS to promote its Lipton Tea Party. Nigerian Breweries, Coca-Cola, Sprite and the British Council have all run opt-in campaigns with Etisalat.
• Through 2011 and 2012, there has been a steady shift from traditional SMS marketing to mobile Web marketing, as brands invest more of their advertising budget on mobile banner and text ads on Web pages. The global mobile ad network InMobi, recently declared that Nigeria was the largest and fastest growing mobile ad market in Africa. InMobi claims to have seen 8 billion mobile Web impressions from Nigerian mobile users in the first three months of 2012. InMobi also reports that 82.8 percent of ad impressions from Nigeria are feature phones and that mobile Web outnumbers mobile apps 99:1.
As more smartphones and Web-enabled feature phones are adopted in Nigeria, mobile Web advertising becomes increasingly more attractive, but lack of education and requisite skills among brands is holding back progress.
• Quick response (QR) codes are being explored by some brands, including Etisalat and MTN as well as some consumer goods companies, but are not widely popular. QR code campaigns tend to focus on driving registrations.
• A major hurdle for mobile marketing is lack of local data – both in Nigeria and across much of the region – which makes targeting mobile marketing and mobile advertising campaigns difficult. Businesses are now realizing the importance of acquiring information through detailed research and the necessity of using that data to help drive decision-making. We hope this demand will stimulate independent companies to start providing credible data about the local mobile consumers.
What role do mobile operators play in the mobile ecosystem?
• The mobile network operators (MNOs) are the primary enablers of the mobile ecosystem. Their main responsibility is to provide a stable platform for mobile communication, and on the whole they live up to this responsibility, although there are sometimes issues with call quality and frequent network congestion. These problems are partly caused by internal issues such as having insufficient network capacity to meet the huge demand from voice and data customers, and partly external, such as excessive governmental demands, supply issues (such as power outages) and cultural factors (such as sabotage).
• In early 2012, Etisalat launched Etisalat EasyAdz an opt-in SMS advertising service, where subscribers can choose to receive offers from advertisers. The service has attracted 800,000 subscribers.
• Sarah Perrins, head of digital, Media Perspectives estimates (November 2012) that MTN Nigeria has more than 25 million opt-in subscribers on it database.
• In June 2012, MTN Nigeria launched MTN Mobile Ads, a mobile advertising service that offers advertises various channels including iSMS, push SMS, USSD flash, MMS, rich media, location-based messaging and IVR. See the video promo below:
What role does the Nigerian government play in the mobile ecosystem?
• The Government lays down policies and guidelines to drive education, quality of service, innovation and development in the mobile ecosystem. The NCC is responsible for the regulation of the Telecoms industry and has overseen the impressive growth of that sector, though arguably lack of effective regulation has allowed the mobile operators to play by their own rules.
• The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has recently been leading a campaign for adoption of mobile money. There are details on this below.
• The Government (federal and state) periodically uses SMS broadcast services to propagate information, especially during election campaigns and festive periods. During elections the Government spends massively on SMS broadcasts to encourage the public to perform their civic duty by voting, while politicians use the medium as a cost-effective way to spread their campaign message to a mass audience.
What associations/industry initiatives are helping to push forward mobile best practice, standards etc. or industry-specific initiatives such as m-health, m-banking, m-learning etc.?
• On the whole, mobile VAS such as m-learning and m-health are still in the early stages of development and these services are yet to gain widespread acceptance in Nigeria. Early adopters have come from the wealthier and more educated classes, who have more readily understood how the services work and the benefits of participating.
• The government launched, in September 2012, an m-farming initiative that gives farmers fertilizer and seed support through the electronic wallet on their mobile phone. The government plans to distribute 10 million mobile phones to farmers across the country to enable them to use the service.
• CBN is driving a cashless economy initiative, which goes into its second phase in January 2013 across the country through mobile money, e-banking and mobile payments. The CBN has already started issuing m-money licenses to interested companies for the provision of these services, and is currently working to create an enabling environment for these services to thrive and gain acceptance among the populous. A lot of m-payment services have sprung up from joint ventures between banks/mobile payment providers and mobile operators. Mobile Web West Africa and Mobile Monday have organized several symposia in West Africa to share knowledge on the best practices for mobile and the mobile industry in the sub-continent. Despite these initiatives, there are few details on how many consumers have adopted the services thus far.
Which industries and brands have shown the most interest in mobile Web/services/marketing in Nigeria? Please include examples and links
• Mobile advertising in Nigeria started with SMS marketing. It was heavily used to promote mobile content such as ringtones and ring-back tunes. Ringtone campaigns were conducted on behalf of artists by content providers such as Starfish, Terragon Ventures and MTech. SMS has also been popular with beverage brands such as Guinness (especially during the football season) and Coca Cola and has also been used by the broadcaster DSTV.
• One local brand that has achieved good results with SMS is Nigerian Breweries. It used Etisalat in early 2012 to promote the “Star” beer brand, inviting an audience of 18- to 25-year-old males to be part of a series of music concerts called “Star Trek”. The campaign achieved a response rate of more than 30 percent and a click-through rate of almost 9 percent.
• Mobile Web advertising is beginning to attract business-to-customer brands such as Nokia, Google, Procter & Gamble, Samsung and Guinness (there are some case studies here). The growing momentum around mobile money/payment has attracted financial institutions to mobile ads. Brands that own and operate mobile/online communities, such as the directory/classified services OLX and Mocality, or have strong social media presence commonly use mobile advertising to drive signups/registration.
• Notable mobile Web campaigns include Nokia’s mobile Web campaign to promote the Ovi Store to (in Kenya and Ghana as well as Nigeria) over the summer 2012, which generated a huge number of downloads. Also of note is Google’s Olympic campaign, which enabled mobile users to watch the Games live on their mobile devices via Google’s YouTube channel when they clicked through banner or text ads.
What are the most popular and/or best mobile sites in Nigeria?
Vanguard – Nigerian daily newspaper: 3 million monthly pageviews.
Nairaland – information portal: 9 million monthly pageviews /927,884 users.
Jobberman – job portal: 2.5million monthly pageviews.
Complete-Sports – sports news: 700,000 monthly views.
Linda Ikeji – entertainment blog: 450,000 monthly views.
(The stats quoted above are all mobile pageviews, provided by Twinpine).
• The top 10 most visited sites by Nigerian mobile devices using the Opera mobile browser (July 2012) are 1. Facebook (social networking); 2. Eskimi (social networking); 3. Google (search); 4. Waptrick (mobile content); 5. Yahoo (search); 6. Goal.com (football/soccer); 7. BBC (news/entertainment); 8. Mobofree (dating and chat); 9. Smiggle.mobi (dating and chat) and 10. Vanguard (news).
Who are the key players in mobile Web/Marketing in Nigeria?
• Mobile agencies or creative agencies: Media Perspectives (Carat MP), MediaCom Nigeria, Bytesize, Starfish Mobile.
• Mobile content/VAS providers: Terragon Ventures, MTech, Starfish, GenieNG, Cellulant, Funmobil.
• Mobile advertising networks – African specialists: Twinpine, Bloovue, Adsbrook.
• Mobile advertising networks – international: InMobi, Ad Dynamo.
• Mobile search engines: Google (88.5 percent market share), Yahoo (5.8 percent), Bing (4.4 percent), AskJeeves (0.9 percent), Mamma (0.1 percent).
• Local business search engines/directories: VConnect, Mocality, Gyst. Job search engine: Jobberman.
• Mobile operators (see above for market share): MTN Nigeria, Globacom, Airtel and EMTS.
• Associations: Mobile Marketing Association West Africa, Wireless Application Service Provider Association of Nigeria (WASPAN), Mobile Monday Nigeria.
• Mobile Web/marketing evangelists/gurus: Gbenga Sesan, Mister Mobility (Yomi Adegboye), Jesse Oguntimehin, Oduntan Odubanjo, Elo Umeh.
• Must attend mobile events: Mobile Web West Africa, Digital Marketing Conference, MMA Forums, G-Nigeria.
Where should people go for more information – please include useful online resources, books etc?
• For industry information: the NCC Website provides some data and trends.
• For mobile marketing information, see: Mobile Monday Nigeria; Mobile Web West Africa (see the 2012 presentations); eMarketer and any of the companies’ Websites listed above.
• For mobile industry news and views: Technology Times; ITNewsAfrica.com; Mobility.
Is there anything else we need to know about mobile in Nigeria? Please comment below or email editor(at)mobiThinking.com.
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See The insider’s guide to mobile Web marketing in:
Nigeria • Kenya • Brazil • France • Japan • Canada • Germany • USA • India • UK • Australia • Spain • South Africa • Country guides homepage •
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• The big compendium of global mobile stats
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Above: With over 100 million active mobile subscriptions Nigeria is the largest mobile market in Africa and the tenth largest in the world (Map image copyright: Basheera Designs via www.Shutterstock.com).
Above: There are four main mobile network operators in Nigeria: MTN Nigeria has two-fifths of mobile subscribers, Globacom and Celtel/Airtel have around one-fifth and EMTS (Etisalat) has a tenth.
Above: The top 10 handsets used to access the Web in Nigeria are all Nokia.
Above: Nigeria Breweries used Etisalat’s opt-in SMS service to help promote Star Trek, a series of concerts to celebrating Nigerian popular music.
Above: Etisalat uses quick response code to promote its services (image: lindalkeji.mobi).
Above: Mobofree.mobi – one of four social media sites in Nigeria’s top 10 most visited mobile destinations.
Above: Completesportsnigeria.mobi – a popular mobile site catering to Nigerian’s love of the beautiful game.