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Mobile Phones and Economic Development in Africa

  • Jenny Aker and Isaac M. Mbiti

We examine the growth of mobile phone technology over the past decade and consider its potential impacts upon quality of life in low-income countries, with a particular focus on sub-Saharan Africa. We first provide an overview of the patterns and determinants of mobile phone coverage in sub-Saharan Africa before describing the characteristics of primary and secondary mobile phone adopters on the continent. We then discuss the channels through which mobile phone technology can impact development outcomes, both as a positive externality of the communication sector and as part of mobile phone-based development projects, and analyze existing evidence. While current research suggests that mobile phone coverage and adoption have had positive impacts on agricultural and labor market efficiency and welfare in certain countries, empirical evidence is still somewhat limited. In addition, mobile phone technology cannot serve as the “silver bullet” for development in sub-Saharan Africa. Careful impact evaluations of mobile phone development projects are required to better understand their impacts upon economic and social outcomes, and mobile phone technology must work in partnership with other public good provision and investment.

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Paper provided by Center for Global Development in its series Working Papers with number 211.

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Length: 45 pages
Date of creation: Jun 2010
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:cgd:wpaper:211
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  1. Robert Jensen & Emily Oster, 2009. "The Power of TV: Cable Television and Women's Status in India," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 124(3), pages 1057-1094, August.
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  7. Jennifer F. Reinganum, 1978. "A Simple Model of Equilibrium Price Dispersion," Discussion Papers 335, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  8. Jenny C. Aker, 2010. "Information from Markets Near and Far: Mobile Phones and Agricultural Markets in Niger," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 2(3), pages 46-59, July.
  9. Stahl, Dale O, II, 1989. "Oligopolistic Pricing with Sequential Consumer Search," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(4), pages 700-712, September.
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  12. World Bank, 2009. "World Development Indicators 2009," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 4367.
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