Mobile phone service is readily available across most of Africa, but the infrastructure that much of the world takes for granted, such as sewage systems and electricity, is more scarce. A 2016 survey conducted by the non-partisan organization Afrobarometer found that approximately 93% of Africans live in areas with cell phone service, but only 65% have access to electricity and 63% have access to piped water. The report from Afrobarometer also examined how access to essential services in 18 African countries has improved since 2005. Although the availability of cell phone service has increased by 23%, road infrastructure has only increased by 16%, water and electricity access by 14%, and sewage systems by just 8%. Overall, North Africa has the best access to services, while East Africa has the worst.
A world connected by cell phones:
- In countries such as Mauritius and Egypt, access to electricity and piped water is almost universal, but only 17% of Burundians have electricity, and only 17% of Liberians have access to piped water.
- “An awful lot of people might as well be living in the 19th century," says Winnie V. Mitullah, director of the Institute for Development Studies at the University of Nairobi.
- Without electricity at home, mobile phone users typically charge their devices using solar charging stations, central charging stations in towns that have them, or by tapping into a car battery.