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Africa’s Mobile Phone Market Performs Well in Q4 2020, with Recovery on the Cards for H2 2021

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Africa’s overall mobile phone market grew 4.6% quarter on quarter (QoQ) in Q4 2020, according to the latest figures announced by International Data Corporation (IDC).

The global technology research and consulting services firm’s newly released Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker reveals that feature phone shipments to the region grew 7.6% QoQ in Q4 2020, while smartphone shipments increased 0.7% over the same period.

However, when the data is analyzed year on year (YoY), smartphone shipments were down 4.5% on the corresponding quarter of 2019, while feature phone shipments were down 8.0%. Looking at the year as a whole, Africa’s overall mobile phone market declined 10.0% YoY in 2020, due in large part to the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in the first half the year.

QoQ, South Africa led the way in the smartphone space, with shipments increasing 16.3% in Q4 2020. The Nigerian smartphone market grew 12.1% QoQ, while Egypt’s growth was much slower at just 1.8%.

“South Africa imposed a total market lockdown in Q1 and Q2 2020, causing a buildup of pent-up demand that led to high growth rates in Q3 and Q4 2020,” says George Mbuthia, a research analyst at IDC. “In Nigeria, Chinese vendors were keen on pushing high volumes of units during Q4 2020 when the dollar rate was stable. Egypt, on the other hand, experienced a slow growth rate due to high sell-in in Q3.”

Transsion brands (Tecno, Itel, and Infinix) led the African smartphone market in Q4 2020 with a combined unit share of 48.2%. Samsung and Oppo placed second and third with respective unit shares of 16.1% and 6.4%.

The average selling price (ASP) of smartphones grew 5.6% QoQ due to the launch of new models by various vendors in the midrange and high-end price bands. Shipments of devices from the lowest price band ($0<$80) declined 14.5% QoQ in Q4 2020, while the $200<$300 band saw the highest growth, with shipments of these devices increasing 43.7%.

4G devices accounted for 83.9% of the smartphones shipped in the African market during Q4 2020; 3G devices garnered 15.4% share, with 5G devices accounting for the remaining 0.7%.

“The infrastructure investment required on the telco side to drive 5G adoption is understandably lacking at the moment, since the primary desire of telcos is to utilize their existing 4G capacity,” says Mbuthia .

“On the device side, most vendors are now starting to launch their 5G models in the market, and the cost of 5G devices is expected to decline significantly over the medium term, leading to much faster growth for 5G handsets.”

Looking ahead, IDC expects smartphone shipments into Africa to grow 2.9% YoY in 2021. “The first half of the year is likely to be slower as vendors face component shortages,” says Ramazan Yavuz, a senior research manager at IDC.

“However, a recovery is expected to start from the second half of 2021. With the expansion of vaccination programs and a subsequent slowdown in the spread of the COVID-19, markets across the region are expected to return to normal in H2 2021, with retail channels performing better and purchasing power starting to improve.”


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Telecom

Subscribers Decry Poor Service Delivery by Telcos, Accuse NCC of Playing the Ostrich

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Telecommunications subscribers have waxed angrily at the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) for pretending that everything was fine while subscribers grapple with unreliable internet and call services.

Subscribers Decry Poor Service Delivery by Telcos, Accuse NCC of Playing the Ostrich

They want the regulator could do more by compelling Mobile Network Operators (MNOs), also known as telcos, to improve their service.

Some of the major complaints are connection failures, poor data service, fluctuating network, data roll over challenges, illegal credit deductions and uncompleted calls.

Experts said that the drop in service quality has been attributed to the fact that three out of the four mobile network operators failed to meet the industry standards for network service.

In separate calls; Association of Telephone, CableTv, and Internet Subscribers of Nigeria (ATCIS-Nigeria) and National Association of Telecoms Subscribers of Nigeria (NATCOM) urged the NCC to live up to its responsibility of protecting subscribers.

Sina Bilesanmi, president, ATCIS-Nigeria, accused the NCC of pretending that everything was fine while subscribers groaned.

He said that ATCIS-Nigeria members have not only complained about drop calls and inability to originate calls, but they are also unable to access their airtime balance after recharging.

Bilesanmi argued that now that service quality has nosedived, there was no ground for telcos to justify any demand for a tariff increase.

He said that “ I have been inundated with complaints about low service quality from my members.

“ It is worrisome and the NCC is pretending that all is well. This low service quality is coming at a time when the MNOs are asking for a hike in tariff and our members were beginning to show understanding because, quite frankly, the tariff has remained the same for over a decade.

“The operators should tell us if they have any challenges.”

Elsewhere, Deolu Ogunbanjo, national president, NATCOM, said the service rendered by the MNOs had become  ‘’so bad’ that subscribers now lament openly.

He added that the telcos, on their part,   complained about their constraints to expand capacity.”

He said: “It(service delivery) has been so bad. It was one of the issues raised last Thursday but the telcos complained about their constraint to expand capacity and the need to raise tariff.”

Ogunbanjo said he supported the demand for an increase in tariff because it was overdue.

He, however, said an increase must be marginal in order not to asphyxiate the industry.

 

 


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Meta Disagrees with $220m Fine, Sets for Appeal

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Meta, the parent company of WhatsApp and Facebook, is preparing to appeal a decision by Nigerian regulators to impose a $220 million fine against it for alleged market power abuse and privacy violations.

Meta Disagrees with $220m Fine, Sets for Appeal

The company said that “We disagree with this decision as well as the fine and we are appealing the decision,” a WhatsApp spokesperson said.

The spokesperson did not specify where and when the appeal will be lodged.

It will be recalled that the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) published the fine last week, capping a three-year investigation.

The inquiry focused on data sharing practices on WhatsApp, the most widely used messaging service in Nigeria.

The commission claimed it found evidence of “multiple and repeated, as well as continuing infringements” of the country’s data protection and competition laws and imposed the fine as a final resolution.

Meta was ordered to “immediately reinstate the rights of Nigerian users to self-determine and control” data sharing, and stop sharing WhatsApp users’ information “with other Facebook companies and third parties” without users’ active consent.

It was also required to pay $35,000 to cover the cost of the commission’s investigation, in addition to the $220 million penalty. Both amounts are to be paid within 60 days from July 18.

Nigeria began looking into WhatsApp, which has an estimated 51 million users in the country, in May 2021.

That was four months after the app updated its global privacy policy on messaging between individuals and businesses, and how users’ data may be shared with Facebook.

Meta began responding to concerns detailed in Nigeria’s report around March this year, pledging to cooperate towards “reaching an amicable resolution,” according to the commission.

A “remedy package” proposed by Meta and sent mid-April proved unsatisfactory to the commission, however, its report said.

It is not clear what this package is — an email for comment to the commission was not responded to. Nigeria still expects Meta to implement it and publish it on WhatsApp’s website within two weeks, in addition to the fines.

Beyond complying with its laws, Nigeria’s aim with the penalties is to get Meta to “cease the exploitation of consumers and their market abuse,” the commission said.

 

 


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WATRA Says Digital Economy Contributes $30Bn Annually to W/African GDP

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The West Africa Telecommunications Regulators Assembly (WATRA) has said that the digital economy currently contributes around $30 billion annually to the region’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

WATRA Says Digital Economy Contributes $30Bn Annually to W/African GDP

WATRA also called for lower cost of internet access to enhance the digital economy for the respective countries in the region.

Mr Aliyu Aboki, executive secretary, WATRA, who disclosed this during a virtual press conference at the weekend also said the West African telecommunications market is now valued at $63.17 billion with over 400 million mobile subscribers.

However, Aboki said WATRS is working on initiatives to facilitate infrastructure sharing among West African countries to lower the cost of internet for telecom subscribers across the region.

According to him, infrastructure such as gateways, and data centres are facilities that could be shared by countries in the region.

Admitting that the cost of internet across West African countries is still high, Aboki said a lower cost of internet access would enhance the digital economy for the respective countries in the region and increase the consumption of data by the citizens, which in turn generate more revenue for the telecom operators.

“We are exploring regional initiatives to share infrastructure and reduce cost. For example, we have infrastructures like gateways, data center servers, and so on. These are infrastructures that can be shared and used by different countries without necessarily having everyone building the same infrastructure.

“So, we are collectively looking at these rich regional initiatives that enable us to share infrastructure to bring down the cost of Internet ultimately,” the WATRA scribe said.

 

 


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