Aussie Billionaire Marvels at Africa’s Mobile Revolution

Mobile phones are changing the way we live, and nowhere is this more evident than in Africa, according to Australian billionaire and investment manager Kerr Neilson.

Neilson, founder of fund manager Platinum Capital, said the emergence of the internet and in particular its application on mobile devices has been a game changer for Africa and for that matter, the world.

“To think that at the turn of this century there were fewer than 10 million fixed lines in all of Africa, mostly in a single country, and there are now more than 700 million mobile subscribers,” said Neilson, who was born in South Africa.

Neilson made his comments on Africa’s mobile revolution in Platinum’s annual report released Sept. 11. In it, Platinum reported a pre-tax operating profit of $74.8  million and a post-tax operating profit of $58.8 million in the three-months ending June 30. This represents a 435% increase in profit from the prior year.

Neilson marveled at the changes to come in Africa as smart handsets become available for say $50 to $70 each. “To have reliable information about anticipated weather conditions and prices of agricultural products, to be able to transmit funds to relatives in remote and distant villages, to be able to access healthcare advice on one’s mobile phone, are huge breakthroughs,” he writes.

He said mobile technology could have a disproportional impact on productivity in the creation, and flow of goods and services as it removes ignorance and wasted effort.

For instance, having the ability to pay one’s water and electricity bills and even government taxes by mobile phone not only eliminates queuing but also improves the balance of power between the ruled and the rulers.

“This is even before one gets into the realm of political change where mobile communication has been so evident in movements like the Arab Spring in both galvanising action and publicly recording the subsequent outcomes.

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