In a continent where disposable incomes are low, upmarket mobile phones are still beyond the reach of many.
Chinese cellphone makers have stepped up to provide cheap, affordable phones and they have now gained a foothold over Africa's phone market.
One of the Chinese phone manufacturers that has gained traction in Africa is Transsion Holdings. The company name may sound unfamiliar but its brands have flooded the African streets. Transsion makes the brands Infinix, TECNO and itel. These brands have become the most common phones in Africa because of their affordability to the people. On their website, the company's description points to a company keen on providing as much mobile services to emerging markets.
This is the description on their website: "TRANSSION Holdings is committed to becoming the most popular smart device and mobile internet service provider for consumers in global emerging markets. The company is best-known for its high-quality multi-brand smart devices with mobile phones as the core products, and mobile internet service based on self-developed intelligent terminal operating system and massive mobile phone users."
The company holds the largest market share of the phone market in Africa. The company's presence on the continent is profound and ubiquitous. Transsion has become the number one maker of phones in Africa. Other companies too are making their intentions felt as far as grabbing the phone market in Africa is concerned. Oppo and Vivo have made significant inroads in the African market. Oppo and Vivo are sub-brands of BKK Electronics Company, which is a private multinational tech company based in Shenzhen, China.
Alcatel-Lucent is another brand that is common in Africa. It is a split-off venture of Nokia; the phones are re-branded by other cellphone makers such as Safaricom's Neon. The phones are made in China in a joint venture with TCL,which is a Chinese home appliance maker. And then there this is Huawei, a Chinese giant that has not only covered emerging markets in Africa but worldwide. Huawei is miles ahead as it is a prefferable option to the more upmarket Samsung models and iPhones. Making affordable phones for the African markets has become an area of expertise for the Chinese phone makers.
While other makers such as Samsung and Apple have focused on luxurious models for the upmarket target audience, Chinese phone makers have made it their mission to provide cheap phones in Africa. And this phenomenon started with these makers imitating the models of the more popular phones. They developed simple, cheap imitations that attracted huge loyalty and because of this gap first filled in China, they decided to spread their wings to Africa where attaining such popular but expensive phones is beyond the reach of many. The majority of these Chinese phone makers have failed to penetrate the Chinese phone market sizeably due to the saturation of that market. Hence, spreading wings to Africa has been a viable and massively profitable venture for these phone makers. Re-branding campaigns have transformed the image and perception of these Chinese brands and they have been embraced in Africa with much enthusiasm.
While bridging the gap has been commendable, and making sure that people have cheaper phones compared to the more expensive Samsung and Apple models, Africa still needs to take matters in her own hands and create more factories that create African phones for Africans, made by Africans. Much of these profits are taken back to China and little is left in Africa. As it stands, Chinese-made phones are everywhere in Africa.
Header image credit - Techzim