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February 23, 2019

Kenya’s smartphone market is heating up as budget handsets stimulate growth

Jesse Wu, the Brand Director of OPPO Kenya
Jesse Wu, the Brand Director of OPPO Kenya

When it comes to mobile phones, Kenya and Africa as a whole is truly undergoing a revolution. The actual growth in mobile phones has been far larger than expected by international experts and investors.

Seizing the opportunity provided by the continually growing infrastructure, hundreds of technology start-ups have sprung up across the continent to plough new trade routes and seek to increase their returns through new innovations.

“Africa is the world's second largest mobile market, but also the least penetrated,” says Jesse Wu, the Brand Director of OPPO Kenya where they launched their latest flagship the OPPO F3 in the Kenyan market.

Feature phones have been a key driver in Africa being a mobile-first continent – now making up 56% of market share – and continue to outsell smartphones, according to researchers IDC.

Research shows that by 2019, feature phones will only account for 27% of Africa’s mobile handset market, as the market for smartphones–fueled by handsets priced under $100 per unit–continues to grow. A huge demand for entry level and mid-range smartphones, which are pocket friendly in a market where feature phones are still widely uses, has attracted major players from the Asian giant.

“The African market is kind of complex as for you to get reception here, you have to look into some few key things notably pricing, want and enjoyment,” said Wu.

“We are a new company in the market. We are still studying it and we believe that we shall be able to beat all the traditional companies with what we are planning to do,” he added.

Competition in the mobile industry is as fierce an industry as any out there and Kenya's operators are certainly feeling the squeeze. Every year, there are new entrants coming in and the traditional models are now already manufacturing budget smartphones targeting the youth and people who cannot cough up to their premium devices.

Jesse Wu agrees to this as the company’s new entrant focuses on the “young at heart”, that is the youth.

The youth who are the majority of smartphone users, as they prefer something that has access to the Internet prefer quite an array of different features in a phone. The camera, Internet connection and a large storage capacity are key to get sales in a smartphone.

 The spread of mobile money systems and developments in logistics are combining with increased smartphone use to allow companies to sell everything from insurance to fresh fruit online.

 According to Communications CS Joe Mucheru, increased competition in the telecommunications industry will ensure customers are able to shop around for the best service and prices and also ensure quality services.

 According to a report by The International Finance Corporation, World Bank Group, fixed line telephony never quite took off in Sub-Saharan Africa. Mobile telephony could have gone the same way. Instead, because of the right mix of regulation and competition, investment and affordability—and assistance from development institutions like the World Bank and IFC—over three quarters of the region’s inhabitants now have direct to telecommunications and all the benefits it can bring.

 “We sure hope that we will be able to achieve more in this market. With the help and support that the Kenyan government is giving us, we will be able to learn this market and achieve the unachievable,” said Wu.

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