Africa’s mobile market remains flat at 52.1 mln in Q1

Africa’s overall mobile phone market remained flat in the first quarter although smartphone shipments declined for the second successive quarter, according to the latest report from the IDC. The study shows that a total of 52.1 million mobile phones were shipped in Q1, down 6.3 percent quarter on quarter and 3.9 percent year on year, with the continent’s two biggest markets – Nigeria and South Africa – underperforming and posting sequential declines of 6.4 percent and 27.4 year-on-year percent, respectively.

Nigeria’s modest performance can be attributed to the fact that smartphone adoption continues to be hindered by expensive broadband rates and slow internet connectivity, says Nabila Popal, a senior research manager at IDC. Popal said the drop in South Africa is simply down to seasonal factors, with Q1 traditionally being the slowest quarter of the year and unable to match the buoyant sales seen in Q4, traditionally the strongest, when demand is stirred by Black Friday and the Christmas season. IDC says shipments declined 4.5 percent quarter on quarter for Q1 to 20.4 million units.

This represents an annual decline of 4.4 percent, which is actually an improvement on the 13.7 percent year-on-year decline seen in Q4 2017. Transsion brands continued to lead the smartphone category in Q1 2018 with 32.1 percent share of the market’s shipments, followed by Samsung in second place with 25.4 percent share. In the feature phone space, shipments totaled 31.7 million units in Q1, down 7.4 percent quarter on quarter and 3.6 percent year on year. Feature phones continue to account for the majority share (60.8%) of Africa’s overall mobile phone market and their resilience in this region can be attributed to factors such as their affordability and long battery lives.

Telecom and Itel continued to dominate Africa’s feature phone market in Q1 with a combined unit share of 57.8 percent.  According to the report, while South Africa is one of the continent’s most developed markets, a large proportion of the market still centers around low-end to midrange devices priced below USD 150. Affordable smartphones that fall into this price range have seen a lot of growth over the last two years, fueled by local brands like Mobicell, MINT, and Vodacom, IDC said. With disposable income limited for the majority of consumers, most spending on mobile devices takes place in Q4, leading to an inevitable drop-off in Q1, it said.

IDC expects Africa’s overall mobile phone market to grow 0.5 percent quarter on quarter in Q2 2018, while shipments for 2018 as a whole are forecast to decline 0.6 percent YoY. Demand for feature phones is expected to remain strong, although IDC expects vendors to drive smartphone uptake by offering more features in affordable price bands.