The COVID-19 pandemic has made a serious impact on the African smartphone market, much worse than previously predicted. Data from the International Data Corporation (IDC), the market has suffered its biggest decline since 2015.

According to IDC’s Worldwide Mobile Phone Tracker, Africa’s smartphone market saw shipments drop to 20.1 million in the Q1 2020, compared to 21.5 million in Q1 2019. This is also a 17.8% decline compared to the previous quarter. This is higher than the 14.9% IDC predicted in March.

South Africa’s smartphone market witnessed the biggest decline as shipments contracted by 22.9% in the first quarter.

In Egypt, sales slowed to 2.82 million in Q1 2020, a 6.3% drop compared to the previous quarter.

The Nigerian market performed slightly better than expected. IDC predicted smartphone shipments could decline by 15.4%, but the latest statistics showed a 13.6% drop in Q1 2020. IDC attributes this to resilience by market leaders

including Transsion Holdings.

TechCabal had reported in April that despite the pandemic, Transsion’s marketing activities were still in high gear. It continued to launch new products across Africa while ramping up marketing for existing ones.

“The market’s Chinese players continued with aggressive marketing and branding activities that helped them to retain notable market shares despite the supply issues thrown up by the pandemic,” IDC explained.

In Nigeria, Transsion accounted for 76.8% of all smartphone shipments. Samsung, Xiaomi and Huawei represented 7.2%, 4.9% and 3.2% respectively.

Meanwhile, the drop in smartphone shipments across Africa is not unexpected. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a number of impacts on the continent.

As China took measures to control the outbreak, global supply chains were seriously disrupted for the first four months of 2020. But as the virus spread to other countries, control measures including lockdowns and restrictions on the sale of non-essential services caused a ripple. Factories were closed causing ships to arrive at ports empty.

“[C]onsumer demand was hit by local measures and lockdowns to combat the spread of the disease,” IDC said.

While the lockdown measures greatly affected supply chain activities, the economic impact of the pandemic has been a concern. In an already low-income region, the pandemic has reduced consumer spending power and forced people to prioritise essential needs.

In Nigeria, the oil-driven economy has suffered as crude oil prices were unstable for the first five months of 2020.

“In such an environment, consumers are moving towards more affordable entry-level and mid-range devices,” said Taher Abdel-Hameed, a senior research analyst at IDC.

IDC predicts that 2020 smartphone shipments could decline by as much as 9.1% “the heavy impact of the pandemic on the economies will be felt on the overall 2020 smartphone market.”

“A significant portion of mobile phone channels are closed in the region and economies have slowed down quite significantly during Q2 2020, which will lead to a weaker Q2 performance,” says Ramazan Yavuz, a senior research manager at IDC.

Abubakar Idris Author

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