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Tecno holds off competition to be Africa’s top smartphone brand

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While popular smartphone brands Apple, Samsung and Xiaomi hold poll position in terms of global market share, Chinese smartphone provider Tecno Mobile is outpacing these brands on the African continent.

So say market analysis firms Counterpoint and IDC, which place the Chinese smartphone brand as number one on the continent, amid rising smartphone demand among African users.

Tecno is a smartphone brand from China’s Transsion Holdings, which also counts Infinix and Itel among its phone brands. Last March, Transsion made its South African debut, announcing local availability of Tecno smartphones from major retail stores and online outlets.

In terms of handset sales in Africa in 2020, Tecno overcame competitors, according to the research firms. This, they say, is despite a 6.7% year-on-year fall in Africa’s smartphone shipments in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Counterpoint data, Tecno was responsible for 18% of the total smartphone shipments to Africa last year, beating South Korean smartphone giant Samsung, which secured 15% of Africa’s total smartphone shipments last year.

Tecno’s sister brand, Itel, placed third with 12%, followed by Huawei, which achieved 8%, says Counterpoint.

The market research firm notes that four in five smartphones shipped in Africa fall below the $200 (R2 900) mark and companies that offer solid but affordable devices tend to perform extremely well.

“The ASP [average selling price] decreased 15% between 2018 and 2020, and today over 80% of Africa’s smartphone shipments come from the below $200 band,” says Counterpoint analyst Yang Wang. “We can expect further replacement of feature phones by entry-level smartphones, leading to the ASP likely remaining under pressure in the next few years.”

Similarly, data from the IDC shows Transsion brands Tecno, Itel and Infinix led the African smartphone market in the fourth quarter of 2020, with a combined unit share of 48.2%.

Samsung and Oppo placed second and third, with unit shares of 16.1% and 6.4%, respectively.

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

“However, a recovery is expected to start from the second half of 2021. With the expansion of the COVID-19 vaccination programmes and a subsequent slowdown in the spread of 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,” comments Yavuz.

While 2020 saw the first 5G-capable smartphones in Africa, it is unlikely to be a main factor in the African market in the next few years, says Counterpoint.

According to Counterpoint, there is still room for 5G smartphones in Africa, especially if prices can drop below $200, which it expects to happen in the near future.


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