Publication: Employment and the Mobile Sector in Developing Countries

Foster, C.G., Heeks, R.B., 2011. Employment and the Mobile Sector in Developing Countries, Background Paper for UNCTAD Information Economy Report 2011. UNCTAD, Geneva, Switzerland.


Analysis of the growth of mobile phones in developing countries has mainly focused on the consumption of mobile phones and related services, analysing the benefits and patterns of mobile use (the demand-side). Another equally important component relates to the mobile sector (the supply-side) and the forms of supply and trading of mobile products and services.

The mobile sector has emerged as a significant part of the economy of some
developing countries. It provides sizeable employment for those close to poverty, whether that is officially sanctioned agents and vendors, or more ‘indirect’ employment. For mobile sector enterprises, the configuration of the supply-side will determine how effective they are in connecting to customers, particularly when looking to extend their reach to the ‘base–of-the-pyramid’.

The way that the mobile sector is configured is affected by the actions taken by policy makers, enterprises and other stakeholders. This paper provides an analysis and policy discussion, focussing particularly on the emergence and growth of more marginal micro-enterprises in the mobile sector.