Africa’s smartphones shipments fall in Q3 2020

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Different types of smartphones
PHOTO/COURTESY: medium.com

Africa’s overall mobile phone market shipments declined by 6 percent in the third quarter of 2020, data from global technology research and consulting firm International Data Corporation (IDC) has revealed.

According to the firm’s newly published Quarterly Global Mobile Phone Tracker, the decline stemmed mainly from feature phones, with shipments of these devices declining 11.2 percent in the period under review to total 29.4 million units.

By contrast, smartphone shipments were up by 14.1% percent, with 22.9 million smartphones shipped to the region during the quarter. The growth of the smartphone market was caused by the release of pent-up demand after countries eased their COVID-19 lockdown restrictions and by a shift in vendor strategies to offer more entry-level flagship models.

Rising unemployment rates and economic uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic continue to shift consumer buying patterns toward affordable and feature-rich products. Africa’s largest smartphone markets such as Egypt and Nigeria recorded mixed performances.

Similarly, the Egyptian smartphone market grew as vendors offered devices with more competitive prices, larger screens, and improved features. Despite, experiencing a 13.4 percent decline in shipments in Q3. South Africa continued to lead the way in Africa’s smartphone market, with shipments to the country totaling 3.3 million units.

“While South Africa’s smartphone market experienced a decline, shipments actually increased 17.8% percent as lockdown restrictions were lifted and the channels replenished their inventories for Q4 promotions. South Africa is struggling with economic hardships, but smartphones have become an essential consumer item, making it a resilient market in a downturn,” Arnold Ponela, a research analyst at IDC said.

Smartphone transsion brands such as Tecno, Itel, and Infinix continued to dominate Africa’s smartphone space in Q3 2020, with a combined 42.2 percent unit share. Samsung and Huawei followed in second and third place, with respective unit shares of 19.9 percent and 8.7 percent. Tecno and Itel also dominated the feature phone landscape with a combined share of 76.6 percent..

In terms of price bands, devices priced below $200 accounted for 89.3 percent of smartphone shipments to Africa in Q3 2020. The share of smartphones priced below $100 declined slightly from 53.8 percent in Q2 2020 to 53 percent in Q3 2020, while the share of devices priced between $100- $200 increased from 34.7 percent to 36.3 percent over the same period.

“Demand for entry-level smartphones was driven by e-learning requirements since smartphones are the only device offering internet access for most households in Africa. The mid-range segment ($200<$500) declined, as consumers held back on upgrading to more expensive smartphones due to economic uncertainties,” Ramazan Yavuz, a senior research manager at IDC said on his part.

Looking ahead, IDC expects the recovery in shipments seen in Q3 to continue through Q4 2020 during the festive months, with overall shipments expected to grow 4.6 percent quarter on quarter. The prospects for 2021 will depend on improvements in the overall economy, which will be largely dictated by the availability of a COVID-19 vaccine. Aside from this factor, all market indicators are pointing towards supply-chain constraints fully easing out during the second half of 2021, with demand returning to normal as economic recovery starts.

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