Challenging Conditions Affect Africa’s Mobile Phone Market

By Yvette Raikes

Q1 mobile phone shipments in Africa were 54.5 million, down 8.2% QoQ, according to figures from IDC. Smartphones in particular saw a drop of 17.6% to 21.2 million units. However, the YOY market rose 8.4%, mainly due to the growth in feature phone shipments to 33.3 million from 26.6 million. Feature phones are especially important in rural areas.

The quarterly decline was caused by substantial falls in the three largest markets – South Africa (13.6%), Nigeria (8.1%) and Egypt (11.5%). This was attributed to high levels of stock in the channel in South Africa, while Nigeria is in recession and Egypt is suffering from exchange rate issues. Morocco’s economic problems and Algeria’s unstable politics contributed to lower sales (down 2.2% and 1.5% respectively), with Tunisia the only North African country to see a QoQ increase (0.5%). East Africa did much better with Tanzania and Uganda up 8.1% and 11.6% respectively, although Kenya was down 1.3%, probably due to having grown very rapidly in the last two years.

Samsung is still the top supplier with 29.8% of the market, followed closely by Chinese vendor Transsion with 23.9%. Transsion has a strong focus on cheaper phones (<$150) and dominates the feature phone sector, with three fifths of the market.

IDC forecasts flat shipments for this year, but expects growth to restart in 2018.