Smartphone shipments in Africa were still in the doldrums during the third quarter of the year, with total shipments of 21.7 million units down by 5.5% compared with a year earlier, according to statistics from research house IDC.
The one bright note was that the number increased quarter-on-quarter (QoQ) by 4.3% following two consecutive periods of QoQ decline.
Of the smartphones shipped, 52.9% were 4G devices.
Feature phone shipments continue to be stronger: At 33.7 million units, the number was up 11.5% compared with a year earlier, though it represented a QoQ decline of 3.6%. “Feature phones still constitute a significant 60.8% share of the total mobile phone market as they adequately address the needs of African consumers that have limited purchasing power and require a reliable long-lasting mode of communication, particularly those in rural areas,” stated IDC.
Combined smartphone and feature phone shipments, at 55.4 million, were up 4.2% year-on-year.
IDC noted different trends in two of the largest markets: In Nigeria, shipments were up by 1.7% QoQ while in South Africa the number was down 8.0%.
"The Nigerian economy is slowly coming out of recession and we're seeing signs of steady improvement in consumer demand for mobile phones," noted IDC research manager Ramazan Yavuz. "However, consumer spending remained slow in South Africa during Q3 2017 as many consumers opted to delay their purchases until Q4, when major campaigns take place around Black Friday and the lead up to Christmas. In addition, an unstable currency and challenging economic environment do not present favorable conditions for a surge in mobile phone shipments in the country."
Transsion Holdings was the leading smartphone vendor brand in the third quarter, with a 30.1% market share, followed by Samsung on 26.1%. "The Transsion Group maintains its position by engaging in aggressive sales and marketing campaigns, and by designing devices that address the specific needs of each local market," noted Nabila Popal, a senior research manager at IDC. "Samsung’s success in Q3 2017 was primarily due to its economically priced J series, which helped the vendor post a 0.6% QoQ increase in smartphone shipments for the quarter."
In the feature phone sector, Tecno and itel (both from Transsion) are still the dominant brands, with a combined share of 58.9% in Q3.
Looking ahead, IDC expects Africa's overall mobile phone market to grow 6.2% QoQ in the fourth quarter of 2017, “spurred by the increase in demand that typically accompanies the festive season.” However, IDC is not so positive about the year ahead: It expects “overall shipments to remain relatively flat through 2018, with a decline in feature phone shipments and slower uptake of smartphones causing the market to contract -0.5% YoY.”
— The staff, Connecting Africa