Owning a quality smartphone in Africa a few years ago was something only for the rich and the lucky. Today, at a price of less than 100$, (and thanks to competition, even as low as 70$) and with prices dropping fast, many African consumers no longer see them as an exclusively luxury item.
Over one-third of the continent’s 1.1 billion population owns a mobile phone and it is expected that this year, the smartphone market will grow by over 40% (up from a penetration of 15%), putting 70 million new smartphones in circulation. A recent study by Deloitte (published on February 16) showed that by 2017, an expected 350 million smartphones will be in use. These will be connected to rapidly expanding broad-band infrastructures that are being installed to keep up with the demand, and will go hand in hand with a boom in digital content, internet access and mobile-phone paying services, the latter of which are growing in popularity.
In fact, 52% of the world’s mobile cash transactions take place in Africa according to the study, and more than half of these occur in East Africa, with a further quarter taking place in South Africa and Senegal.
In such countries, owning a mobile phone is just as good as having a bank account, only with less paperwork, queues, trips to the city-centre and more ready cash-on-hand. It doesn’t come as a surprise therefore that many low-income earners are more willing to transact over a GSM network than through chequebooks and credit cards, especially if the little deposits they make cannot afford them such banking services.
In a decade where competition is stiff for high-end smartphones manufacturers, traditional mobile companies will find a welcoming market for quality low-end smartphones in Africa. Moreover, with a characteristically young population, the need for the maintenance and servicing of these new technologies can be realised on African soil, thus bringing with it many new jobs and skills.