Smartphone shipments flourish in Africa despite economic uncertainty

Smartphone shipments flourish in Africa despite economic uncertainty

Africa’s overall mobile phone market shipments declined six percent year-on-year in Q3 2020, according to the latest insights from global technology research and consulting firm International Data Corporation (IDC). However, this is not the whole story.

It’s true that, according to IDC’s recently published Quarterly Global Mobile Phone Tracker, shipments of feature phones to Africa fell 11.2 percent year-on-year in Q3 2020 to total 29.4 million units.

But smartphone shipments were up; they rose by 14.1 percent year-on-year. In fact IDC estimates that 22.9 million smartphones were shipped to the region during the quarter.

This growth seems to have resulted from both pent-up post-lockdown demand and from a shift in vendor strategies to offer more entry-level flagship models. Certainly the economic uncertainty caused by the ongoing pandemic seems to be encouraging consumers to go for more affordable and feature-rich products.

Smartphone shipments to Nigeria, for example, grew due to a shift from vendors to entry-level and mid-range devices. Egyptian smartphone market growth is attributed to devices with more competitive prices, larger screens and improved features.

By contrast, South Africa saw a 13.4 percent year-on-year decline; however, it is still Africa's biggest smartphone market, with shipments to the country totalling 3.3 million units.

Transsion brands (Tecno, Itel and Infinix) continued to dominate Africa's smartphone space in Q3 2020, with 42.2 percent unit share. Samsung and Huawei followed in second and third place, with respective unit shares of 19.9 percent and 8.7 percent. Tecno and Itel also dominated the feature phone landscape with a combined share of 76.6 percent. Nokia came in third with an eight percent share of feature phone shipments.

Underlining the appeal of more affordable phones, devices priced below $200 accounted for 89.3 percent of smartphone shipments to Africa in Q3 2020. The share of smartphones priced below $100 declined slightly from 53.8 percent in Q2 2020 to 53.0 percent in Q3 2020, while the share of devices priced from $100 to $200 increased from 34.7 percent to 36.3 percent over the same period.

An interesting point made by Ramazan Yavuz, a senior research manager at IDC, was that demand for entry-level smartphones has been driven by e-learning requirements. That’s because smartphones are often the only device offering internet access for most households in Africa.

He added: “The mid-range segment ($200<$500) declined year on year, as consumers held back on upgrading to more expensive smartphones due to economic uncertainties.”

Will smartphone sales continue to grow? IDC expects so, though it adds that a good 2021 may depend on how close Africa is to getting the pandemic under control.


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