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Smart finally overtake feature phones in Africa

Smartphone sales jumped 17.9% while their low-cost alternatives fell.15.9%, says the IDC.

Smartphone sales finally overtook their low-cost alternative, the feature phone, across Africa in the first quarter of 2024.

Smartphone sales jumped 17.9% while feature phones fell.15.9%%, says the International Data Corporation (IDC) in the firm’s newly released Quarterly Global Mobile Phone Tracker.

Africa’s smartphone market showed remarkable resilience in the face of macroeconomic challenges and forex issues in Q1 2024, with shipments reaching 20.2-million units. 

Feature phone shipments over the same period fell to 18.8-million units. This marks the first quarter where smartphone shipments have surpassed feature phone shipments in Africa, highlighting a clear transition toward smartphones across the region.

“South Africa experienced healthy YoY growth in Q1 2024, driven by the rising popularity and availability of competitively priced Chinese brands with advanced features,” says Arnold Ponela, a senior research analyst at IDC. “Meanwhile, Nigeria saw robust growth fueled by the success of Transsion brands and Xiaomi, particularly in the entry-level segment, which significantly boosted shipments. Kenya further strengthened its position as the third-largest smartphone market in Africa in Q1 2024, with innovative financing models like Mkopa driving sales growth.”

In Q1 2024, Transsion brands (Tecno, Itel, Infinix) maintained their leading position in terms of smartphone market share, driven by their compelling entry-level device portfolio tailored to the African market. However, Samsung and Xiaomi gained market share on the previous quarter, driven by mid-range ($200<$400) models. Overall, shipments of smartphones in this price range increased in Q1 2024, while shipments of <$100 devices declined, indicating a growing consumer preference for feature-rich models.

Looking at 2024 as a whole, IDC expects Africa’s smartphone market to see shipments increase 5.7% YoY, with a sustained upward trajectory for the next five years. “Africa remains a market with a high share of feature phones, although they are expected to gradually decline as the transition to smartphones gains momentum,” says Akash Balachandran, a research manager at IDC. “This shift, coupled with rising demand, will be the key driver of overall growth in the smartphone market. Persistent inflationary pressures and escalating macroeconomic uncertainties may cause short-term fluctuations but will not impede the long-term transition.”

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