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Smartphone shipments to Africa up 21.5%

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Smartphone shipments to Africa was up 21.5% year-on-year for Q2 2013, according to the latest insights from International Data Corporation (IDC).

Samsung's Galaxy S4 mini (image: Samsung)
Samsung’s Galaxy S4 mini (image: Samsung)

Referencing its most recent Middle East and Africa Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, the leading global market intelligence and advisory firm for the information technology and telecommunications markets announced that smartphones now account for 18.0% of the overall African mobile phone market’s volume.

Samsung currently dominates the African smartphone market, recording 52.1% unit share for Q2 2013.

This represents the fourth quarter in a row that the South Korean giant’s market share has hovered around the 50% mark. BlackBerry trailed way behind with 17.8% share of the market’s volume. The vendor’s position improved by almost three percentage points on the previous quarter as the brand still retains a high level of popularity in the Africa region due to its cheaper data packages.

LG has been trying to gain a foothold in the market but its products have not been very successful with the masses, and the vendor accounted for less than 2% of the African smartphone market in Q2 2013. Sony, on the other hand, has reinvented itself with its new lineup after buying out Ericsson’s share in the company. The Japanese vendor’s midrange and high-end devices are pushing hard against the offerings of the market leaders, with its unit share increasing constantly, up from 0.3% to 3.4% year on year in Q2 2013.

Nokia continues to dominate the feature-phone market, despite the well-publicised difficulties it has encountered in making a comeback in the smartphone space. The vendor accounted for 58.5% of the feature-phone market’s volume in Q2 2013, down only slightly on its performance in the corresponding quarter of 2012. Samsung trailed in second place with 13.6% unit share.

“There is a huge gap between the leaders and the rest of the market players for both smartphones and feature phones,” says Simon Baker, program manager for mobile handsets at IDC CEMA.

“As a continent, Africa requires a very significant commitment in terms of local offices and resources in order to build out a presence and logistical capabilities across so many countries. Samsung, with its broad range of consumer electronics products and unwavering ambition, has been able to achieve just that, in the same vein as Nokia did before it.”

While the task is seemingly putting off smaller players, Hamza Saleem, a senior research analyst for mobile devices at IDC MEA believes there is room for nimble regional brands that pick just a few countries on which to focus. “They can source Android smartphones at very competitive prices from a host of Chinese manufacturing plants and launch them under their own brands,” says Saleem. “The most prominent such brand is Tecno. It started off with relatively simple phones but is now offering more sophisticated smartphones and is very active in West and East Africa.”

The price of mobile broadband is falling across Africa thanks to the spread of fiber-optic links connecting to the new ocean cables that dot the continent’s coastline. South Africa remains the largest smartphone market, with more than a million units being shipped each quarter, but IDC’s latest figures show Nigeria is rapidly gaining ground.

With the repercussions of the Arab Spring continuing to be felt strongly in some parts of the region, the economic situation in countries such as Egypt has deteriorated. Such economic constraints have had a negative impact on the top end of the market in the affected countries, with consumers moving toward lower-end feature phones as confidence waivers due to ongoing conflicts in the major cities. Against this backdrop, IDC expects the North Africa region to see a decline in mobile shipments for the foreseeable future.

IDC forecasts the African smartphone market to double in volume over the next four years and account for close to a third of all handset shipments to the continent by 2017. Feature phones remain the heart of the African mobile phone market, and IDC believes that as the number of mobile users increases across the continent, feature-phone volumes will remain strong despite the growth in smartphone shipments.

Staff writer

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