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Africa News

Inflation stifles smartphones 
across Africa

The continent’s smartphone market has fallen to a three-year low as demand drops, although feature phones remain steady.

Africa’s smartphone market reached 17-million units in the first quarter (Q1) of 2023, the lowest level of shipments since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in the first quarter of 2020. 

According to the International Data Corporation (IDC), the market declined 3.4% quarter on quarter. The firm’s newly released Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker shows that rising inflation and local currency depreciations against the US dollar have lowered demand for smartphones across the continent.

Shipments of feature phones across Africa also declined in Q1 2023, although not to the same extent as smartphones. Feature phones remain relatively affordable and are still the preferred secondary device option for many consumers.

“Africa’s smartphone declined throughout 2022 amid weak consumer demand, and this has been exacerbated by rising inflation and higher device prices,” says George Mbuthia, a senior research analyst at IDC. “The average selling price (ASP) for smartphones grew QoQ due to high import costs and the fact that many vendors’ flagship devices are now equipped with 5G and have therefore moved up in price to the premium segment.”

Africa’s top 3 smartphone markets recorded a mixed performance in Q1 2023. South Africa and Nigeria both saw shipments decline QoQ, while the Egyptian market registered growth. South Africa was impacted by seasonality issues and weak demand, meaning vendors were unable to bring in new units while they continued to clear the channel. Egypt remains below its potential, but local assembly is picking up in the country and the government has now dropped its “letters of credit” requirement for vendors, both of which have helped the market to recover from its low base.

Transsion (Tecno, Itel, and Infinix) accounted for the largest share for smartphone shipments across Africa in Q1 2023, despite experiencing a decline in units. Samsung placed second, while Xiaomi came in third.

“Looking ahead, a slight recovery in demand is expected starting from the second half of 2023, with uncertainty over a global recession lessening,” says Ramazan Yavuz, a senior research manager at IDC. “Greater currency stability against on the dollar will promote more stable pricing, and this is also expected to ease import costs and thus lower ASPs in the market, helping to spur slight growth throughout the remainder of the year.”

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