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Smartphone sales grow in Africa

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While 2018 was a tough year for worldwide smartphone shipments, Africa experienced year-on-year growth for first time since 2015, according to the latest figures announced by International Data Corporation (IDC). The global technology research and consulting firm’s newly released Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker shows the African smartphone market grew 2.3% in 2018 to total 88.2 million units, spurred by the strong performance of the continent’s three biggest markets – Nigeria, South Africa, and Egypt.

Overall mobile phone shipments were down 1.9% year on year in 2018 to 215.3 million units, with feature phone accounting for 59.0% of shipments versus 41.0% for smartphones. This overall decline mainly comes from the sluggish performance of the feature phone segment in numerous countries across the region.

2018 was the first year since 2015 that Nigeria, South Africa, and Egypt have simultaneously experienced growth in mobile phone shipments. The Nigerian and Egyptian markets recovered from declines in 2017, thanks to the relative stability of exchange rates, the stronger presence of feature phones, and the introduction of new affordable smartphones. In South Africa, the growth was driven by local brands such as Mobicel and Stylo pushing feature phones and ultra-low-end smartphones.

Transsion brands (Tecno, Infinix, and Inel) led Africa’s feature phone space in 2018, with a combined unit share of 58.7%. Nokia was next in line with 9.6% share. Transsion, Samsung, and Huawei dominated the smartphone space with respective unit shares of 34.3%, 22.6%, and 9.9%. However, in value terms, Samsung led the smartphone space with 36.9% share, followed by Transsion (20.2%) and Huawei (12.4%).

Local and regional brands accounted for a combined 14.3% share of Africa’s overall mobile phone market in 2018. This is broadly equal to the share of all Chinese brands in the market, excluding Transsion, which is primarily focused on serving Africa and accounted for a significant 48.7% of the total market’s volume in 2018. 

“A new wave of local/regional brands are emerging across the continent,” says Taher Abdel-Hameed, a senior research analyst at IDC. “Some emerged after restrictions were placed on imports in countries like Algeria, while others have emerged to tap into opportunities in the feature phone and entry-level smartphone segments that have been almost vacated by global brands. Despite the success of Transsion brands in both the smartphone and feature phone categories, it is also worth noting the phenomenal growth enjoyed by Huawei and its sub-brand Honor in Africa’s smartphone space. Together, these two brands saw their shipments increase by a combined 47.9% year on year in 2018, spurred by their ambitious expansion plans in emerging markets and strong focus on affordable devices.”

Looking ahead, IDC expects Africa’s overall mobile phone market to decline 0.8% year on year in 2019 to total 213.6 million units. Smartphone shipments are forecast to grow 5.4% over this period, spurred by the introduction of more affordable devices in the African market that will help drive progress in this space over the coming years. However, feature phone shipments are expected to decline 5.1% as the shift to smartphone gathers momentum.

Regarding 5G deployments, while several experiments are already underway in the region, IDC expects the commercialization of 5G services to start in most countries by 2020. However, the arrival of 5G and new designs like foldable devices are not expected to create huge momentum in Africa over the short term due to the high price tag that is attached to these devices.

“There is always the possibility of technological leapfrogging in the innovation accelerators domain when Africa’s 5G markets are considered,” says Ramazan Yavuz, a research manager at IDC. “4G-ready devices constituted only 35% all smartphones in 2016 in Africa. Considering 4G-ready devices are expected to surpass 72% of all smartphones by 2020, 5G smartphone penetration could be expected to roll out faster when the prices become more and more affordable after initial launches.” 

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Building Africa’s Century

The 4th industrial revolution will be on the agenda of this week’s Gartner IT Symposium in Cape Town. Doug Woolley, GM of Dell Technologies South Africa, ponders its meaning for Africa

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Is this Africa’s Century, as President Cyril Ramaphosa said at the recent WEF on Africa gathering? I believe so. The event made solid headway in charting a course forward for African-centric solutions to our challenges. 

Technology featured often in discussions and the 4th Industrial Revolution was a central theme. Many of the outcomes also tied to a more connected digital world. But those are the broad strokes. What happens next?

An important avenue can be found in all the individual investments made inside societies, such as broadband. The spread of connectivity is in part due to telecommunications firms being mandated by the Government to reach rural and under-serviced communities. But the major momentum behind broadband stems from demand. From individuals to enterprises, a hungry broadband market has helped South Africa become much more connected.

This paradigm applies to other technology investments as well. All of them add up to support the ideas and advancements that were discussed at WEF on Africa. The need for better services and performance through technology stokes the Fourth Industrial Revolution’s engine. Every network, every datacentre, every smartphone is a piece of the puzzle that will create Africa’s Century.

We are further along the curve than most people realise. If I can judge a country’s potential based on how digitally mature its organisations are, then South Africa is not in bad shape. Earlier this year, the annual Dell Technologies Digital Transformation Index ranked South Africa in the top ten, ahead of most developed nations. The investments made by the Public and Private sectors are taking root. 

It may not make headlines, but all these individual ambitions pointing in the same direction are building the change we all want to see.

This brings me to the Gartner IT Symposium Xpo, the business-technology event taking place at the Cape Town International Convention Centre from 16 to 18 September. If WEF on Africa challenged for solutions at a high level, then the Gartner Symposium is where those individual investments come into play.

The nitty-gritty of the 4IR era will be on the Symposium agenda. Research by World Wide Worx on the uptake of 4IR technologies among South African enterprises will be presented tomorrow (Tuesday) by one of the company’s data analysts, Bryan Turner.

I also anticipate discussions about multi-cloud. Cloud has grown tremendously as African organisations saw the progress that came with investing in it, connectivity and data – the core ingredients of the 4IR era. Now they are looking ahead to what can be done next: that multi-cloud is on the agenda shows how Africa’s technology capability is growing.

Unified workspaces will be another good conversation topic. What happens in the office doesn’t stay in the office. Our technology habits follow us home and, more often, our home habits follow us to the office. This makes perfect sense, because 4IR is primarily about people being empowered by technology. Our workplace technology habits are microcosms of our overall use of technology.

Multi-cloud is the ‘infrastructure’ of the 4IR conversation and the workplace is where these technologies deliver some of their value. Considerable buzz is growing around unified workspaces, which make office environments more manageable and secure while reshaping them to fit the needs of modern employees.

Stop by the Dell Technologies stand and see how we’re helping create that momentum with multi-cloud, unified workspaces and through many other channels, including skills development and supporting SMMEs to grow.

How do we create Africa’s Century? Through those individual investments that collectively stoke the engines of our country and continent. It’s not just for the big players: 4IR can provide for every organisation regardless of size. Those investments are investments in the future of Africa.

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PayPal pictures how the future will be won – or lost

By AAYUSH SINGHANIA, director of Commercial Operations for PayPal Cross-Border Trade Markets

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There’s no doubt that technology has already re-shaped the way the world thinks about buying and selling. Who would have thought twenty years ago that people would be shopping on their phones?

Despite the huge changes to the shopping experience in recent years, it’s important to understand that we are only part-way through this journey. We are in the midst of the fourth industrial revolution, and as technologies continue to advance, and we as a society adapt our behaviours, new opportunities and risks will present themselves to merchants of all sizes.

Here is where I see the future of commerce being won and lost, as we continue on this technology journey:

Meeting ever-increasing demand for personalised experiences

We’ve already witnessed the transition of commerce from brick and mortar to the web, and then from the web to mobile. The next phase of internet-connected devices will make commerce even more contextual whereby anything you can interact with can be a platform for commerce. Imagine being able to point your phone at your best friend’s shoes, and almost instantly they are in your shopping cart, ready to be delivered to your home?

Mobile has already made shopping an “all the time” activity and has given us a taste of what it’s like to have hyper-personalised experiences. While a consumer walking into a retail store is limited by physical space, the online world offers an unlimited shelf for merchants to deliver tailored customer experiences. Looking ahead, innovations in artificial intelligence and machine learning hold great promise to further deliver on this hyper-personalisation, by being able to learn about who a consumer really is as a person and their individual preferences.

As a result of this evolution, customers have moved from being surprised and delighted by personalised experiences to expect them in every context. Many customers, for example, now get frustrated when they receive advertisements for products that they’ve already bought, or have no interest in. This shift has made it critical for merchants to avoid delivering homogenous experiences to shoppers who demand personalised interactions across all contexts. In doing so, it’s important that merchants find a balance between personalising their offerings and ensuring consumers don’t feel their privacy is being invaded. Shoppers want to feel like a brand understands them, but isn’t stalking them, particularly in the wake of several high-profile data breaches.

Closing the consumer fulfilment gap to deliver seamless experiences

With new advancements in technology comes the ability to create seamless customer experiences that narrow the gap between customer desire and fulfilment. Gone are the days where shoppers decided to purchase an item and they were happy to wait a week to receive it – for many, two-day shipping still isn’t quick enough. The invention of the internet meant people could shop from home, and recently we’ve seen this evolve further where consumers prefer to shop on-the-go via mobile.

The big question is, what’s next? We’re already seeing the growth of commerce through technologies like AI-enabled voice assistants and virtual reality, so it’s critical that merchants keep pace with innovations that enable them to close the gap between desire and purchase in a delightful way.

At the end of the day, businesses need to remember that the act of filling up a cart and the process of checking out is not the fun part of making a purchase – these are points of friction – and technology is the answer to removing these frustrations for customers.

Managing customer reactions to technology disruption

Every tech disruption in its early days delivers excitement, fear, anxiety and doubt – not necessarily in that order. We all go through a phase of tech humanisation, because technology grows as we do – and we help shape the development of new solutions.

Technology has been used for good and bad, and technology that causes eye-raising experiences at the start will generally normalise in time. Remember the first video cameras on phones? As people learned how to use the technology, content got posted that shouldn’t have. Everything from the telephone, to radio and the television all caused concern and were initially criticised when first introduced to the public, but with time they’ve become part of our everyday lives.  As technology evolves, companies learn from it, and the acceptance and humanisation of technology will take place for both consumers and merchants as new innovations are applied to the world of commerce.

Merchants need to have a mindset that’s focused on being a customer champion, while recognising that customers need to adapt to new technologies in their own time. To do this, businesses must leverage technology to build the right features that aren’t intrusive, but geared towards helping people, and respect the customer’s choice to turn technology on or off.

Technology innovation will continue to re-shape commerce in the years ahead, with the potential to deliver new growth opportunities for merchants, and offering customers more choice, convenience, value and instant gratification. In a broader sense, these innovations can also help promote employment by breaking down traditional barriers to buying and selling. For merchants, the opportunities will arise, they just have to know how to take advantage of them in the right way.

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