IDC: Africa Smartphone Market Declines Despite Strong Performance of Region’s Biggest Markets

By Andrew Fenn
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Africa’s smartphone market experienced a quarter-on-quarter decline of 6.4% during the fourth quarter of 2017, according to the latest insights from IDC. The new data shows smartphone shipments were down to 20.3 million units for the quarter. Year-on-year, this represents an 18% decline, meaning the year-on-year improvement seen in the previous quarter did not extend to the year’s final—and traditionally strongest—quarter.

In the feature phone space, shipments totalled 33.4 million units, up 3.1% quarter-on-quarter after decreasing in the previous quarter. Year-on-year, feature phones grew 9.9% and continue to account for a majority share (62.2%) of the region’s overall mobile phone market as they adequately address the needs of consumers that have limited purchasing power and require a reliable, long-lasting mode of communication, particularly in rural areas.

Combining smartphones and feature phones together, the overall Africa mobile phone market saw shipments of 53.7 million units in the fourth quarter of 2017, which represents downturns of 0.7% quarter-on-quarter and 2.6% year-on-year. The continent’s two biggest markets saw extremely strong growth, with shipments up 19.9% quarter-on-quarter in Nigeria and 27% quarter-on-quarter in South Africa. North Africa also experienced a slight increase, although there were declines across most other markets, which explains the region’s overall decline. IDC’s Ramazan Yavuz said:

corp 193“Major campaigns took place around Black Friday and during the lead up to Christmas, which positively impacted consumer spending in Nigeria and South Africa. While Nigeria continues to recover from recession and consumer spending is on the rise, there are also clear signs of improvement in South Africa. The end to the political crisis means that challenging economic conditions will be addressed as a priority by the new government, which will have a positive effect on consumer confidence and spending on mobile phones”.

In terms of the vendor landscape, Transsion brands continued to lead the smartphone category in the fourth quarter of 2017 with 30.4% share, followed closely by Samsung on 27%. IDC’s Nabila Popal also commented:

“The Transsion Group maintains its top position by designing attractively priced devices that address the specific needs of each local market—a strategy the group proudly refers to as its ‘glocal’ approach. Despite the significant presence of Transsion brands in most African markets, it is important to note the increasing prevalence of local brands that are gaining considerable share in their home markets and slowly expanding to surrounding countries”.

In the feature phone space, Tecno and Itel—both of which are Transsion brands—continued to dominate in the fourth quarter of 2017 with a combined share of 57.2%. IDC’s research shows that 4G phones are growing in popularity, finally accounting for a majority share of the smartphone market at 56.8%. Shipments of 4G devices were up 3.9% quarter-on-quarter in the fourth quarter of 2017, with a drop in prices for entry-level 4G phones and an increase in the number of 4G networks across the continent driving this growth. Popal continued:

“Despite the push of operators towards 4G, the price differential between 3G and 4G devices together with the price sensitivity of African consumers means that many people in Africa still prefer 3G phones”.

Looking ahead, IDC expects Africa’s overall mobile phone market to grow 0.7% quarter-on-quarter in the first quarter of 2018, with overall shipments to increase slightly through 2018, leading to year-on-year growth of 2% for the year as a whole. Demand for feature phones is expected to remain strong, although IDC expects vendors to drive smartphone uptake by offering more features in affordable price bands.