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Entry-level devices propel SA’s smartphone shipments

Sibahle Malinga
By Sibahle Malinga, ITWeb senior news journalist.
Johannesburg, 20 Dec 2023
Mid-tier devices experienced heightened demand in South Africa in Q3.
Mid-tier devices experienced heightened demand in South Africa in Q3.

Africa's smartphone market showed resilience amid macro-volatility, with shipments growing 12%year-on-year in the third quarter (Q3) of 2023.

SA’s smartphone market alone, showed a remarkable growth of 20%.

This is according to a new report by research firm Canalys, which shows the African smartphone market saw a second consecutive quarter of strong recovery in Q3 2023.

Despite macro-economic challenges, import restrictions, and volatile currencies in key markets, the region experienced encouraging shipments growth year-on-year growth totalling 17.9 million units, according to Canalys.

“The African market demonstrates strong resilience in demand and supply amid macro-economic challenges,” says Canalys senior consultant Manish Pravinkumar.

“Despite rapid currency devaluation, South Africa's smartphone market showed a remarkable growth fuelled by the demand for entry-level devices, particularly catering to the extensive pre-paid segment. Additionally, mid-tier devices experienced heightened demand, the prevalence of load-shedding contributed to this trend, as people increasingly prioritise smartphones with quality screens and robust battery life to keep them entertained during power outages.”

Transsion maintained its leading position, and achieved 9% annual growth, securing a dominant 48% market share, notes the report.

The company, whose brands include Tecno, Infinix and iTel, is strategically expanding its footprint, especially in emerging markets, focusing on price bands below $100.

Samsung, hit by a 13% decline due to challenges in its mid-to-high-end devices, retained second position with 26% market share.

Xiaomi and OPPO’s successful resurgence with annual growth rates of 100% and 259%, respectively, were fuelled by significant investments, especially in the Egyptian market, which contributed to positive Q3 results.

Canalys Smartphone Market Pulse: Q3 2023

African smartphone shipments and annual growth *Source: Canalys
African smartphone shipments and annual growth *Source: Canalys

“While witnessing significant growth in the third quarter of 2023, Canalys foresees limited expansion in Africa, expecting single-digit growth in 2024,” adds Pravinkumar.

“Channel partners and vendors are grappling with challenges such as currency devaluation, increased import taxes, and government initiatives promoting local production, potentially leading to cost and price hikes. Nevertheless, the availability of device financing schemes from operators and channel partners could significantly enhance accessibility and boost adoption rates. Looking forward, the next few years are anticipated to witness a plateau in 2G, while 4G and 5G are positioned for robust growth.

According to a report by John’s Phones, the most popular phone brands in South Africa are: Samsung which leads the local market with 52.2% market share, followed by Apple with 16.6% market share. Huawei comes in third place with 15.4%.

Chinese vendor, Tecno Mobile, emerges as the top smartphone brand in Uganda (26.22%) and the Democratic Republic of Congo (32.58%). It is also the biggest name in Nigeria with 49% of the market, followed by Infinix (20.80%), and Samsung (11.91%), it says.