5 Mar 2012

Is 2012 the year when the smartphone market will take off in Africa?


The latest smartphones and devices where as usual major subjects of discussion at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona last week. But there was a difference this year: emerging markets were much more present in the conversations, and Africa featured in a way that hasn't really been heard before.

Improved internet connections in Africa have vastly improved in the last few years, thanks to investment in network and infrastructure developments. Now the next step is for consumers to access it with affordable and reliable devices, and smartphones are the primary device tool for internet access in the region. Manufacturers and operators seem to embrace the fact that Africa is ready for a shift in its market, and that now is the time to develop the right strategies if they don't want to be left behind.

There are some strong signs that 2012 is the year where device strategies will play a crucial role in expanding Africa’s telecoms, media and ICT market. The whole digital ecosystem is playing a part in the development of device strategies:
- international manufacturers are launching low-cost smartphones answering the needs of the market: Nokia is still dominating the handset market boosting its emerging markets strategy with more attractive low-cost smartphones, Blackberry remains a strong brand in the business community, and all major manufacturers (Samsung, Huawei, ZTE, LG, HTC, Motorola) have launched or announced low-costs smartphones targeted to emerging markets
- African entrepreneurs such as VMK in Congo are entering the market by developing tablets locally
- operators are launching device strategies as a way to boost mobile data usage and therefore revenues;
- developers and content providers are making the most of the smarpthone opportunities to launch innovative services for the local market.

AfricaCom 2012 (Cape Town, SA, 13-15 November) is reflecting this key market trend with a new keynote session on Handset & Device Strategies for African Markets. The session will be held in the opening keynote session and will give handset manufacturers an opportunity to give brief presentations before joining a panel discussion with leading operators to discuss strategies to develop the mobile device market in Africa. The panellists will discuss the requirements to offer a suitable range of devices including low-cost handsets, smartphones and tablets, as well as which platforms will be most successful in Africa and for what segments. In addition, the AfricaCom programme will include other sessions where devices will be discussed: mobile content, AfricApps (addressing developers’ needs), enterprise ICT Africa.