Africa’s overall mobile phone market remained flat in Q1 2018 although smartphone shipments declined for the second successive quarter, according to the latest insights from International Data Corporation (IDC). The global technology research and consulting firm’s recently published Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker shows that a total of 52.1 million mobile phones were shipped in Q1 2018, down 6.3% quarter on quarter (QoQ) and 3.9% year on year (YoY), with the continent’s two biggest markets – Nigeria and South Africa – underperforming and posting QoQ declines of 6.4% and 27.4%, respectively.
“Nigeria’s modest performance can be attributed to the fact that smartphone adoption continues to be hindered by expensive broadband rates and slow internet connectivity,” says Nabila Popal, a senior research manager at IDC. “The drop in South Africa is simply down to seasonal factors, with Q1 traditionally being the slowest quarter of the year and unable to match the buoyant sales seen in Q4, traditionally the strongest, when demand is stirred by Black Friday and the Christmas season.
“While South Africa is one of the continent’s most developed markets, a large proportion of the market still centers around low-end to midrange devices priced below $150. Affordable smartphones that fall into this price range have seen a lot of growth over the last two years, fueled by local brands like Mobicell, MINT, and Vodacom. With disposable income limited for the majority of consumers, most spending on mobile devices takes place in Q4, leading to an inevitable drop-off in Q1.”
Looking at smartphones in isolation, shipments declined 4.5% QoQ for the first quarter of the year to total 20.4 million units. This represents a decline of 4.4% YoY, which is actually an improvement on the 13.7% YoY decline seen in Q4 2017. Transsion brands continued to lead the smartphone category in Q1 2018 with 32.1% share of the market’s shipments, followed by Samsung in second place with 25.4% share.
In the feature phone space, shipments totaled 31.7 million units in Q1 2018, down 7.4% QoQ and 3.6% YoY. Feature phones continue to account for the majority share (60.8%) of Africa’s overall mobile phone market and their resilience in this region can be attributed to factors such as their affordability and long battery lives. Telco and Itel continued to dominate Africa’s feature phone market in Q1 2018 with a combined unit share of 57.8%.
“Feature phones remain a viable option throughout the continent as hardening economic conditions have taken their toll on consumer spending,” says Ramazan Yavuz, a research manager at IDC. “The volatile exchange rates that have inflicted many countries across the region are delaying the penetration of affordable smartphones into wider segments of the consumer base, which is why we continue to see feature phones account for such a large share of the overall market.”
Looking ahead, IDC expects Africa’s overall mobile phone market to grow 0.5% QoQ in Q2 2018, while shipments for 2018 as a whole are forecast to decline 0.6% YoY. 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. “The local brands that are equipped with a strong knowledge of local needs and the flexibility to adjust mobile phone prices locally will strongly appeal to African consumers, and their growth will accelerate the uptake of smartphones in the mid-term,” says Yavuz.
Africa phones go flat
Africa’s mobile phone market declined 2.1% quarter on quarter in Q3 2018 according to the latest figures from IDC.
The global technology research and consulting firm newly released Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker shows overall shipments for the quarter totalled 52.6 million units, with feature phone shipments falling 2.7% QoQ and smartphone shipments declining 1.3% over the same period.
Transsion brands (Tecno, Infinix, and Itel) led the feature phone space in Q3 2018, with a combined unit share of 58.2%. Nokia was next in line with 11.7% share. Transsion, Samsung, and Huawei dominated the smartphone space with respective unit shares of 34.9%, 21.7%, and 10.2%. However, in value terms, Samsung led the smartphone market with 37.2% share, followed by Transsion (21.0%) and Huawei (13.0%).
There were differing fortunes in the region’s three major markets, with Nigeria suffering a heavy 11.6% QoQ decline in mobile phone shipments, while South Africa and Kenya saw respective QoQ growth of 8.5% and 7.9% in Q3 2018.
“The decline in Nigeria stemmed from a slowdown in government spending, ongoing warfare in the country’s northern states, and market uncertainty in the lead up to elections,” says George Mbuthia, a research analyst at IDC. “In South Africa, the market’s growth was spurred by the penetration of low-end devices from brands such as Mobicel, Mint, and Nokia, while the launch of entry-level smartphones helped drive growth in Kenya despite increases in taxes and fuel prices placing a significant burden on disposable income in the country.”
While feature phones remain steadfastly popular across Africa, particularly in more rural areas, consumers are increasingly being attracted by smartphone offerings from Chinese brands such as Xiaomi, Oppo, and Huawei, which are actively targeting feature-oriented customers at more economical price points.
“There is a new wave of Chinese brands aggressively pursuing growth opportunities in the region, while the more-established Huawei is also accelerating its marketing efforts and expanding its distribution budget,” says Ramazan Yavuz, a research manager at IDC. “These brands have quickly progressed along the learning curve and evolved their offerings to perfectly reflect the realities of the region by addressing the diverse pricing and feature needs of the consumer base.”
Looking ahead, IDC expects Africa’s overall mobile phone market to reach 58 million units in Q4 2018, spurred by the festive season and online consumer events such as Black Friday. The introduction of more affordable smartphones in the African market will help drive progress in this space over the coming quarters, while the share of feature phones will decline steadily as the transition to smartphones gathers momentum.
Mobile money to cross borders
Orange and MTN launch pan-African mobile money interoperability to scale up mobile financial services across Africa.
Two of Africa’s largest mobile operators and mobile money providers, Orange Group and MTN Group, today announced a joint venture, Mowali (mobile wallet interoperability), to enable interoperable payments across the continent. Mowali makes it possible to send money between mobile money accounts issued by any mobile money provider, in real time and at low cost.
Mowali will immediately benefit from the reach of MTN Mobile Money and Orange Money, bringing together over 100 million mobile money accounts and mobile money operations in 22 of sub-Saharan Africa’s 46 markets. Mowali is ready to enable interoperability between digital financial service providers beyond MTN and Orange operations and markets, to support the existing 338 million mobile money accounts in Africa.
Mowali is a digital payment infrastructure that connects financial service providers and customers in one inclusive network. It functions as an industry utility, open to any mobile money provider in Africa, including banks, money transfer operators and other financial service providers.
The objective of Mowali is to increase the usage of mobile money by consumers and merchants. Mowali enables money to circulate freely between mobile money accounts from any operators in all countries. From the customer’s point of view, this means “I can pay or receive money anywhere from my mobile account regardless of my operator”. The system will unlock further innovation in the digital financial space within the continent.
For Stéphane Richard, Chairman & CEO of Orange, “by providing full interoperability between platforms, Mowali will provide an important step forward that will allow mobile money to become a universal means of payment in Africa. Increasing financial inclusion through the use of digital technology is an essential element in furthering the economic development of Africa, particularly for more isolated communities. This solution embodies Orange’s ambition to be a leading player in the digital transformation of the continent. By joining forces with another of Africa’s market leaders, MTN, we aim to accelerate the pace of this transformation in a way that will change the lives of our customers by providing them with simpler, safer and more advantageous services. “
“One of MTN’s goals is to accelerate the penetration of mobile financial services in Africa, Mowali is one such vehicle that will help us achieve that objective. Furthermore, co-operation and partnerships that help us accelerate the pace of development and overcome some of the scale, scope and complexity of challenges that society faces are key. This partnership with Orange is therefore an important step in helping us play a meaningful role in supporting the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals related to eliminating extreme poverty and enhancing socio-economic development in the markets we operate in and beyond. Thus giving our customers access to a bright, digital future.” said Rob Shuter, Group President and CEO of MTN.
The GSMA supports the Mowali initiative as interoperability at this scale is a key accelerator for both financial inclusion and Mobile Money usability across Africa. “Today, there are over 690 million mobile money accounts around the world. Mobile money services have become an essential, life-changing tool across Africa, providing access to safe and secure financial services but also to energy, health, education and employment opportunities. The creation of Mowali will help to further transform mobile financial services throughout the African region. It demonstrates the mobile industry’s continued leadership and commitment to driving financial inclusion and economic empowerment through industry collaboration. The GSMA is proud to support its development,” said Mats Granryd, Director General, GSMA.
“Interoperability of digital payments has been the toughest hurdle for the financial services industry to overcome, in support of financial inclusion. With Mowali, Orange and MTN deliver a solution that will enable them, and other companies, to scale digital financial services across Africa, faster, to everyone—including the poor,” said Kosta Peric, deputy director of Financial Services for the Poor, at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation “This is a signal that a new wave of innovation, which can help alleviate poverty and drive economic opportunity, is coming. We’re pleased to see an implementation of Mojaloop—an open source payment platform available to operators across the sector—help achieve that.”