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Digital Inclusion

Africans buying more smartphones in 2021

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More Africans were buying smartphones in early 2021, according to data from IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker.

The continent's smartphone market saw a strong recovery in the first quarter of 2021, growing by 16.8% year-on-year (YoY) to 23.4 million units, while the overall mobile phone market also grew 14% to total 53.3 million units.

Despite the smartphone jump, feature phones were also on the purchase list for Africans with an 11.9% increase in feature phone sales during the three months, to 29.9 million units.

Egypt grows, SA slows

IDC said that Africa's major smartphone markets performed well in the first three months of 2021, with the exception of South Africa, where the main vendors faced supply shortages and an economic environment that negatively impacted demand.

Egypt had one of the highest growth rates in the region in Q1, thanks to strong local demand, the easing of COVID-19 restrictions, and major vendors like Samsung and Oppo increasing their shipments into the country.

Nigeria also enjoyed strong YoY growth due to the release of pent-up demand and increasing shipments of Transsion and Samsung devices into the market.

Transsion brands (Tecno, Infinix and Itel) continued to lead Africa's smartphone space in the first quarter, with a combined unit share of 44.3%. Samsung followed with 22.9% unit share and then Oppo with 8.3%.

Transsion brands also dominated the feature phone market, with a combined unit share of 78.7%, followed by Nokia and Stylo with respective shares of 8.1% and 1.7%.

Cost is key

Low-cost phones continue to be popular in the region with the ultra-low-end price band (less than $100) accounting for 42% of the market's shipments in Q1 of 2021; however, this was actually a decrease from 49.6% a year before.

Meanwhile, the low-end price band ($100 to $200) saw its share increase from 35.2% to 43.3% over the same period.

"The increased specs and attributes in smartphones are driving prices upwards, as evidenced by the growth of the low-end price band," says Taher Abdel-Hameed, a senior research analyst at IDC.

"The main vendors, like Transsion, Samsung, Oppo, and Xiaomi, all launched new feature-rich models in this price band. These models were well received by channels and customers alike, feeding the growth of low-end price band."

Looking ahead, IDC expects Africa's smartphone market to grow 5.6% YoY in unit terms for 2021 as a whole.

"Despite supply shortages impacting mobile phone vendors, the major brands succeeded in broadening their model portfolios and driving growth in their shipments into Africa during Q1 2021," explained Ramazan Yavuz, a senior research manager at IDC.

"With vaccination programs expected to accelerate and economies slowly regaining health in the second half of the year, consumer demand is expected to pick up, helping the region's smartphone markets to build on the growth seen in Q1 2021 throughout the remainder of the year," Yavuz concluded.

— The Staff, Connecting Africa

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