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Botswana has most affordable smartphones in the world

By Victor Akindele

Botswana has emerged as the country with the most affordable price of smartphones in the world relative to the income of the people. According to a report by the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI), the Southern African country ranked number one out of 70 countries surveyed.


Affordability, in this regard, is measured in terms of price as a percentage of per capita income of a country. Hence, the average cost of a smartphone in the country is put at US$26.

A4AI in the report titled: ‘From Luxury to Lifeline’ said that the mobile phone is no longer a luxury but a lifeline and must be made affordable globally.


“Mobile devices can no longer be considered a luxury. They are a doorway to so many critical services — from educational resources and online banking to telehealth and government services. People understand the value of these devices and want them in their lives” it said.


It added that affordability is about income as well as the price of devices. “In Mozambique, a smartphone costs US$18. In Argentina, it costs $122. However, because the average monthly income in Argentina is 30 times higher than in Mozambique (US$1,031 to $37), phones are more affordable in Argentina even though they are more expensive. So, when determining affordability, we do not consider the price of a device without looking at incomes. This report, therefore, measures the price of devices, expressed as a share of average monthly income,” it said.

Most and least affordable smartphone offers in study countries
1 Sierra Leone 636% ($265) 1 Botswana 4.03% ($26)
2 Burundi 221% ($52) 2 Jamaica 4.91% ($20)
3 India 206% ($346) 3 Mexico 5.66% ($43)
4 Niger 189% ($60) 4 Costa Rica 6.09% ($58)
5 Central African Republic 122% ($49) 5 China 7.02% ($55)


While noting that device brands like Samsung and Apple, whose devices were highly-desired, are two of the largest producers of mobile devices, A4AI said a large number of the devices they provide are not affordable for billions of people.


“In addition to collecting prices for the most affordable devices, we gathered data on the cheapest available iPhone on the market. These ranged from $135 for an SE 32GB device in Mexico to $1,290 for an XR 64GB device in Cameroon. This additional dataset reflects the diversity of device options available and underlines that the device affordability gap creates a digital capabilities gap.


“For people in low- and middle-income countries, premium devices are simply out of reach for the vast majority of people. We found that iPhones cost less than the average monthly income in just 13 of the 49 countries where we could get a reliable price quote — all in the upper-middle-income group.


“In 27 countries, the cheapest available iPhone was at least twice the average monthly income, rising to over two years’ income in countries like Niger and Madagascar. As a comparison, the cheapest smartphone in Madagascar was priced at 87 per cent of average monthly income and the cheapest feature phone at just 28 per cent,” the body stated in the report.


It further observed that high device costs particularly affect women. According to the report, men are 25 per cent more likely to have an up-to-date device with rich functionality than women.




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