African Mobile Phone Sales Down In 2017, East Africa Still Growing

By Peter Pedroncelli Published: June 19, 2017, 6:17 am
$40 smartphones - Mobile phone sales - Smartphone sales in Africa are expected to recover in 2018. Photo - BlerdsGoogle will make affordable smartphones available to the Nigerian market. Photo - Blerds

Mobile phone sales across the African continent fell during in the first quarter of 2017 in comparison with the fourth quarter of last year, but East Africa still remained in positive growth territory.

Overall shipments of mobile phones to Africa in the first quarter amounted to around 54,5 million units, which represents a decrease of 8,2 percent versus fourth quarter data for 2016.

A sharp decline in smartphone sales, which were previously growing consistently, contributed to the first quarter growth negativity, with a staggering 17,6 percent decline in the smartphone segment for the first three months of the year, with shipments falling from 25,8 million units to 21,2 million.

These stats were made available through new research released by technology research and consulting firm, International Data Corporation, in their Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker.

The smartphone decline was evened out by a consistent demand for feature phones with basic voice call and texting features, as data showed that Africans across the continent still continued to buy these mobile phones, while more expensive smartphones were determined as too expensive by consumers who were forced to tighten their belts due to tough economic times.

Mobile phone sales positive in East Africa

Africa’s three biggest smartphone markets were to blame for the overall decline, with South Africa, Nigeria and Egypt experiencing smartphone shipment declines of 13.6 percent, 8.1 percent, and 11.5 percent respectively during the first quarter of the year, according to BusinessTech.

“In South Africa, the drop was mainly due to high levels of stock in the channel from previous quarters,” said Nabila Popal, a senior research manager at the International Data Corporation, according to TechCentral.

“Nigeria’s decline was caused by the ongoing recession in the overall economy as well as difficulties in accessing foreign currencies for imports, while continuing exchange-rate difficulties were also behind the major decline seen in Egypt,” she added.

While Africa, in general, experienced a decline in smartphone shipments, East Africa still showed positive growth signs, with Tanzania and Uganda increasing 8.1 percent and 11.6 percent respectively, while Kenya’s market followed two years of substantial growth with only a slight 1.3 percent decrease in sales, according to the data.

The International Data Corporation believes that Africa’s smartphone shipment numbers will remain flat this year, before the resumption of growth across the continent in 2018 as the economies recover and experience growth.

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