The Battle for Kenya's Future

Mobile-phone companies across Africa are drawing battle lines to capture the rising middle-class consumer. But in Kenya, the war already is well under way.

Telecommunication companies' battle reflects rising investor interest in Africa, one of the world's last big emerging markets, with one billion consumers and growing. Consumer spending in Africa rose at a compounded annual rate of 16% to 2008 from 2005, according to McKinsey & Co. The consulting firm estimates that within five years, about 220 million Africans who now can meet only basic needs will join the middle class as consumers. Telecom is one of the continent's more robust industries as the cellphone market expands to include Internet access, mobile banking and retail transactions. Mobile service also has brought telephones to people in remote areas that never had land lines.

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