Cell phones reshaping Africa: Interesting article on the effect of cell phones in Africa.
[…] there are South Africans and Kenyans slinging cell phones round the necks of elephants to track them through bush and jungle. And there’s Beatrice Enyonam, a cosmetics vendor in Togo, keeping in touch with her husband by cell phone when he’s traveling in the West African interior.
As cell-phone relay towers sprout on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro and the Serengeti plain, providers are racing to keep up with their exploding market.
There are several things at work here.
Cell phones have solved a perpetual problem: how to talk with someone who is not in front of you at the moment. We take this for granted in the first world, but think about it — what if you could never talk to someone unless they were standing in front of you? Your life would become much more complicated, and this is exactly what millions of Africans are confronted with every day. Remove this restriction and the implications are huge.
Cell phones have less…stuff, like we discussed here. There are towers, but they’re not connected to each other. There are handsets, but they’re not tethered to the wall. In a country with as much social turmoil and difficulty with transportation as Africa, having less physical stuff to maintain is critical.
Cell phones are being ushered in by a wave of private companies, unlike the traditional phone service which has often been taken over and monopolized by local governments. Traditional companies have a tendency to get corrupted in countries where the rule of law isn’t as strong as it could be, but private enterprise and competition provides some incentive for companies to keep customers happy.