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How Mobile Phones Are Changing Life in Africa

From VOA Learning English, we bring you news about technology in Special English. The World Bank estimates there are about 650 million mobile phone users in African countries south of the Sahara desert. That is greater than the number of users in the United States and the European Union.

Samia Melhem works for the World Bank to increase information technologies in Africa. She says mobile phones are Africa's fastest-growing technology. She says more Africans have access to the Internet than to clean water or sanitation. She says mobile technology has brought about huge changes in how people live.

CNN television recently named seven ways life has been revolutionized by mobile phones. They include political activism, education, entertainment, disaster management, agriculture, and health. Banking is another industry that has been transformed by mobile phones. Reports say at least half of the adults in Gabon, Kenya, and Sudan use mobile money.

Rene Mendy sells goods in the streets of Dakar, Senegal. But he never had enough money to open a bank account. Now he uses a mobile phone banking service called Orange Money. With his telephone, he can add or take out as little as one dollar from his account. He can make payments and send money to family members who live far away. Orange Money says it serves 4 million customers in 10 countries.

The World Bank's Samia Melhem notes that the French company is facing competition from other mobile banking services. That is not a surprise. The cost of sending a payment by phone is far lower than with traditional transfer agents like Western Union.

For VOA Learning English, I'm Laurel Bowman.(Adapted from a radio program broadcast 04Feb2013)