Africa’s smartphone market sees 17.9% growth in Q1 2024 despite economic challenges 

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Transsion (Tecno, Itel, and Infinix) accounted for the largest share of smartphone shipments across Africa…
Africa's smartphone market sees significant growth in Q1 2024 despite economic challenges 
African Woman holding a smartphone…

According to a report from the International Data Corporation (IDC), smartphone shipments in Africa surged by 17.9% year-on-year (YoY), reaching 20.2 million units in the first quarter of 2024. 

This quarter marked a significant milestone as smartphone shipments outpaced feature phone shipments, which saw a decline of 15.9% to 18.8 million units, indicating a clear transition towards smartphone adoption across the continent.

South Africa experienced healthy YoY growth in Q1 2024, driven by the rising popularity and availability of competitively priced Chinese brands with advanced features,” said Arnold Ponela, a senior research analyst at IDC. 

He further highlighted that Nigeria also witnessed robust growth fueled by the success of Transsion brands and Xiaomi in the entry-level segment, significantly boosting shipments.  Also, Kenya reinforced its position as the third-largest smartphone market in Africa, with innovative financing models like Mkopa driving sales growth.

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In Q1 2024, Transsion brands such as Tecno, Itel, and Infinix maintained their leading position in terms of market share, thanks to their compelling entry-level device portfolio tailored to the African market. 

However, Samsung and Xiaomi gained market share over the previous quarter, driven by mid-range models priced between $200 and $400. Overall, shipments of smartphones in this price range increased, while shipments of devices priced below $100 declined, reflecting a growing consumer preference for feature-rich models.

2023 vs 2024: smartphone sales across Africa

In Q1 2023, Africa’s smartphone market declined 3.4% quarter on quarter (QoQ) to a total of 17 million units, the lowest level of shipments since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in Q1 2020. 

IDC’s data showed that rising inflation and local currency depreciations against the U.S. dollar negatively impacted demand across the continent. Shipments of feature phones across Africa also declined in Q1 2023. 

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. 

Smartphone

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 leading smartphone markets showed varied results in Q1 2023. While South Africa and Nigeria experienced a decline in shipments compared to Q4 2022, Egypt’s market saw growth.  South Africa struggled with seasonal factors and subdued demand, limiting vendors’ ability to introduce new units as they focused on clearing existing stock. 

Meanwhile, Egypt showed signs of recovery, bolstered by increasing local assembly and the government’s decision to eliminate the “letters of credit” requirement for vendors, which has supported market revitalisation from a lower starting point.

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

In Q4 2023, Africa’s smartphone market experienced a 12.5% year-on-year (YoY) growth, totalling 19.8 million units. Q1 2024 saw a more robust increase. Feature phone shipments in Q4 2023 declined by 7.8% to 20.9 million units, while in Q1 2024, feature phone shipments fell further. 

As always, smartphone markets across Africa performed well due to the focus of Chinese brands on the region amid a period of high inflation, local currency devaluations, and forex shortages. 

Kenya recorded the region’s highest YoY growth rate in Q4 2023, coming from a low base when the market’s dominant brands reduced their shipments in Q4 2022 to manage high inventory levels,” Mbuthia noted. 

Local assembly initiatives for low-end smartphones (below $200) also contributed to the strong growth seen in Kenya. In addition, mobile phone financing schemes have enabled consumers to acquire new smartphones by enabling payment instalments over a long period.”

Looking ahead to the rest of 2024, IDC forecasts a 5.7% year-on-year increase in smartphone shipments across Africa, projecting sustained growth over the next five years.

Africa continues to have a significant proportion of feature phones, but we anticipate a gradual decline as the adoption of smartphones gathers pace,” said Akash Balachandran, IDC’s research manager. 

Smartphone

This transition, alongside increasing consumer demand, will drive overall growth in the smartphone market. While short-term fluctuations may occur due to persistent inflationary pressures and macroeconomic uncertainties, they are not expected to hinder the long-term shift.

Meanwhile, it was reported that global smartphone shipment continues to witness impressive growth as Q1 2024 saw 289.4 million smartphones shipped globally. This number represents a 7.8% year-on-year increase and a third consecutive quarterly growth.

Despite this growth, IDC Worldwide’s Group Vice President of Mobility and Consumer Device Trackers, Ryan Reith noted that the smartphone industry is not completely out of the troubles that have bedevilled it over the past two years. He pointed out that many markets still present macroeconomic challenges. Yet the market appears to be on its way towards recovery.


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