Is increase in smartphone penetration in South Africa going to take m-commerce to the next level?

In the previous post, I showed that South African smartphone owners’ mobile advertising awareness levels exceed those of their Indian, British and American counterparts. This lead to the conclusion that there is promise in the future of mobile advertising in this country, given the forecasted growth of smartphones by World Wide Worx’s latest Internet penetration report.

In this post, I analyze the role of smartphones in South Africa’s m-commerce growth prospects. My rationale is simply that companies advertise with the ultimate aim of generating sales. With smartphones’ ability to serve as a platform for online purchase of advertised goods and services, one key question is whether they are being used as such. Keep in mind that smartphone penetration in South Africa is 15% (or 7.5 million)

OurMobilePlanet’s stats show that a large portion of South African smartphone owners do not use their device to make purchases.

Graph 1

Mzansi, UK and US share a similar smartphone purchase behavior, as shown by Graph 1.

The main reasons for not using smartphone to purchase are preference for using a computer and security concerns.

Graph 2

Breaking this down by age group for the two main barriers for South Africa (Graph 3) reveals a concerning picture – the youth, the age group with the highest smartphone penetration of 21% and that arguably holds the key to future growth of smart phones, feel most insecure about smartphone purchases. This is the case in India as well, but not in UK and US.

Graph 3

Is the youth’s security concern relating to smartphone purchases based on fact or fear of the unknown? My guess is that it is more the latter.

Gender breakdown indicates that both South African males and females mirror the national average with regards the 2 main barriers.

What about future expectation to purchase using a smartphone? Graph 4 provides the answer. India is excluded as its stats were not available at the time of analysis.

Chapter 4

Graph 4 depicts a not-so-rosy picture for future of smartphone-based purchases.

Increase in smartphone penetration may not seem like it holds major prospects for m-commerce, if OurMobilePlanet stats are to be believed. But, it can be expected that the necessity to address barriers to an explosion in mobile purchases will naturally lead to new inventions such as PayPal Here™. This has become a trend in digital technology. Equally importantly, there is increasing evidence  that shows consumers do adopt new offerings that yield a positive experience.


  • Nuffdotty – where thoughts on the subject of education, mostly relating to South Africa, are shared
  • Diski4Life – a blog about development of South African soccer post World Cup 2010



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