Tech Gadget Makers Not Serious With Africa

By Eunice Nze-Peters

Africa was once seen by investors as a part of the world to avoid entirely and few others sees the market as a trade-post to make quick money.

That seems to be a thing of the past now as investors like Microsoft, IBM, Tecno, Nokia and others who make technology devices such as smartphones, tablets, phablets, ipads and PCs are increasingly finding their way into Africa, and getting big returns on relatively small investments. Concerning business in Africa, old habits are hard to break, especially perception.

It’s so amazing that when Apple announced that its newly released iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus will only be available in the US, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Puerto Rico, Singapore and the UK, and wait for it, no African country is listed among the first 10 markets, not even in the next 22 markets that would witness the sales of the phones. Meanwhile, Apple is “the biggest advancements in iPhone history.”

However, two weeks after Apple announced the newly released iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 plus, the device was launched in Ghana by Vodafone Ghana. This saw Ghanaians line up in order to pick up the already networked devices which offers 15GB of data, valid for 90 days after purchase for free. The previous version of the smartphone, iPhone 5s and 5c launched in South Africa about 2 months after it was launched globally.

Asides Ghana and South Africa, other African countries that have seen an influx of technology devices are Kenya, Nigeria and Uganda. Just recently, Nigeria was named as one of the first markets where the Gionee ELife S5.1 smartphone launched. Also, Nokia Lumia 530 made its way to Kenya and Uganda also received the Asus Fonepad 7 Tablet, which is essentially a smartphone/tablet hybrid device.

It may seem unlikely, given its track record in technological development, but Africa is at the centre of a mobile revolution. In the west, mobile phones have been adapted to be more like computers.  In Africa, where a billion people use only 4% of the world’s electricity, many cannot afford to charge a computer, let alone buy one. The smartphone could be described as a PC for your pocket.

This has led phone users and developers to be more resourceful, and African mobiles are being used to do things that the developed world is only now beginning to pick up on.

According to figures from mobile operators and resellers, it turns out that Kenyans have a high appetite for Apple’s latest products, iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, such that the tech company has been unable to meet up with the demand for the smartphones.

Kenya’s Capital FM reports that as at October 2014, orders for the new iPhones in Kenya was 1,000 units but Apple delivered 700 units, with, the largest reseller of iPhones with 120,000 subscribers owning iPhones getting 70 per cent of the orders. The rest of the units were shared among other operators and resellers.

The growth of information and communications technologies has changed the way economic and social development occurs in Africa. New ICT-related tools have been known to make institutions and markets more productive, enhance skills and learning, improve governance at all levels, and make it easier for services to be accessed.

Africa has experienced an incredible boom in mobile phone use over the past decade. In 1998, there were fewer than four million mobiles on the continent. Today, there are more than 500 million. In Uganda alone, 10 million people, or about 30% of the population, own a mobile phone, and that number is growing rapidly every year. For Ugandans, these ubiquitous devices are more than just a handy way of communicating on the fly: they are a way of life.

Although Nigeria has a long way to go, considering such prevailing factors like the limited access to ICT infrastructure, including fixed and mobile telephony services ratio, Internet and broadband service penetration but stakeholders said that considering the growth and potentials of the Nigerian e-payment systems, the country should be ready to host hordes of investors who would soon be flooding the market soon.


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