Machine to Machine (M2M) solutions – a subset of the Internet of Things – already use wireless networks to connect devices to each other and the Internet, with minimal direct human intervention, to deliver services that meet the needs of a wide range of industries. An M2M Service is a combination of devices or “machines” using network resources to communicate with remote application infrastructure for the purposes of monitoring and control, of either the “machine” itself or of the environment.
Africa’s most economically developed country, South Africa, has much of the infrastructure in place to lead the market. South Africa remains the biggest market for M2M followed by Kenya with deployments seen in vehicle tracking, monitoring air quality, and railway track conditions. Elsewhere, Rwanda is connecting SIM cards to POS terminals in isolated areas to allow for the acceptance of credit card payments. The Internet of Things represents an evolution of M2M through the coordination of multiple vendors’ machines, devices, and appliances connected to the Internet through multiple networks.
Market analysts Gartner forecasts the global IoT market to total more than 26bn devices by 2020. There is already a broad range of IoT deployments across Sub-Saharan Africa, with around seven million cellular M2M connections by mid-2014.
Examples of current deployments include the following: • Airtel Congo has partnered with a local vehicle tracking company to offer fleet location services to its customers.
• MTN Rwanda recently reported that the fastest growth in connections was in the area of point-of-sale (PoS) terminals, a market that had seen rapid growth over recent years. The market is being driven by the focus of financial institutions in the country on growing the number of payment cards in use. MTN in South Africa recently implemented its first smart metering project for the City of Johannesburg. This project aimed to install 50,000 meters by June 2014 as part of the first phase of the project, which was due to be completed in 2015.
• In the health sector, Sequoia Technology provides an HIV diagnosis communications system using M2M GPRS printers and a dedicated GSM gateway. The solution allows for test results from far away laboratories to reach the clinics much faster, saving lives in the process. According to, the sub-region will witness a number of innovative new M2M approaches in areas as diverse as telematics, smart metering, mobile banking and finance, security solutions, and smart cities. The total number of M2M connections in SSA is forecast to grow at a CAGR of 26% per annum, reaching 28 million connections by 2020.
In addition, Togo’s Digital Minister, Cina Lawson declared that many African countries have already taken advantage of IoT technology; from healthcare providers tracking the health of outpatients to utility companies using connected meters to check usage, find faults and pre-empt surges in demand. She said that IoT is currently being used in Togo for vehicle tracking but thinks it will quickly be moved into mobile payments or into the area of logistics. She also sees great potential in agriculture where it could be used to improve yields. For her, internet penetration and connectivity remain a challenge; for IoT to work effectively it needs to rely on high-speed internet connections. Moreover, on May 14, 2015, MTN Business unveiled the first Pan African Internet of Things (IoT) platform. MTN’s IoT platform enables networked devices to exchange information and perform actions without requiring manual assistance. MTN’s IoT offering will give African enterprises, entrepreneurs, and developers the means to enable and inspire growth by providing them with tools specific to their business needs, solving age-old business problems in better and more innovative ways. Also, MTN’s dedicated IoT network will have a footprint spanning 23 countries, ensuring that these services offer a seamless experience for those who make use of them. MTN’s IoT platform will provide benefits across a wide range of industries, including those integral to developing countries such as water and electricity supply, utility management, transport, retail, agriculture, and mining.