News

Smartphones Outsell Feature Phones in Africa for the First Time

In a significant development for the African tech landscape, the smartphone market has demonstrated remarkable resilience in the face of macroeconomic challenges and forex issues, with shipments increasing by 17.9% year on year (YoY) to reach 20.2 million units in Q1 2024. This is according to the latest insights from International Data Corporation (IDC), with their newly released Quarterly Global Mobile Phone Tracker showing a parallel decline in feature phone shipments by 15.9% over the same period, totalling 18.8 million units. This milestone marks the first quarter where smartphone shipments have surpassed feature phone shipments in Africa, underscoring a clear transition toward smartphones across the region.

Country-specific Market Trends

Kenya:

Kenya has solidified its position as the third-largest smartphone market in Africa in Q1 2024, with innovative financing models like M-Kopa playing a pivotal role in driving sales growth. These models make it easier for consumers to access and afford smartphones, contributing to the overall market expansion.

South Africa:

South Africa experienced healthy YoY growth in Q1 2024, driven by the rising popularity and availability of competitively priced Chinese brands with advanced features. This surge highlights the growing consumer preference for affordable yet feature-rich smartphones.

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Nigeria:

In Nigeria, robust growth was fuelled by the success of Transsion brands and Xiaomi, particularly in the entry-level segment. This significant boost in shipments underscores the strong demand for budget-friendly smartphones that do not compromise on quality.

Brand Performance

In Q1 2024, Transsion brands (TECNO, itel, Infinix) maintained their dominance in terms of smartphone market share, driven by their compelling portfolio of entry-level devices tailored specifically for the African market. However, Samsung and Xiaomi gained market share from the previous quarter, primarily due to the increasing popularity of their mid-range models priced between $200 and $400. Overall, shipments of smartphones in this price range saw a significant rise, while shipments of devices priced under $100 declined, indicating a growing consumer preference for feature-rich models.

Market Growth and Future Outlook

IDC forecasts that Africa’s smartphone market will see a 5.7% YoY increase in shipments for the entire year of 2024, with a sustained upward trajectory expected for the next five years. “Africa remains a market with a high share of feature phones, although they are expected to gradually decline as the transition to smartphones gains momentum,” says Akash Balachandran, a research manager at IDC. “This shift, coupled with rising demand, will be the key driver of overall growth in the smartphone market. Persistent inflationary pressures and escalating macroeconomic uncertainties may cause short-term fluctuations but will not impede the long-term transition.”

Year on Year Growth (YoY)

YearSmartphone Shipments (millions)YoY Growth (%)Feature Phone Shipments (millions)YoY Decline (%)
Q1 202317.122.4
Q1 202420.217.918.815.9

Brand Performance in Q1 2024

BrandMarket Share (%)Key Factors for Performance
Transsion (Tecno, Itel, Infinix)LeadingEntry-level devices tailored for the African market
SamsungGainedPopularity of mid-range models ($200-$400)
XiaomiGainedStrong demand in the entry-level segment

This data underscores the dynamic shifts within the African smartphone market, reflecting broader trends in consumer preferences and economic conditions. As the market continues to evolve, stakeholders across the ecosystem—from manufacturers to retailers—will need to adapt to the changing landscape to capitalize on the growing demand for smartphones in Africa.

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