COVID-19 Pandemic Causes African Smartphone Market to Suffer One of the Largest Quarterly Declines in Recent History

Jun 09, 2020

Insights from International Data Corporation (IDC) reveal that the COVID-19 pandemic has led to one of the largest quarterly dips in Africa's smartphone market since 2015.

The global technology research and consulting firm's latest Worldwide Mobile Phone Tracker shows that Africa's smartphone market saw shipments decline 17.8% quarter on quarter (QoQ) in Q1 2020 to total 20.1 million units.

The overall mobile phone market totaled 46.8 million units, down 20.5% QoQ, with feature phones accounting for 57.1% share of total units versus smartphones at 42.9%.

COVID-19 had a two-stage negative impact on smartphone shipments in Q1 2020. The pandemic initially restricted the supply of shipments into the region in February as manufacturers in China closed their doors. Then in March, the situation worsened as consumer demand was hit by local measures and lockdowns to combat the spread of the disease.

The pandemic adversely impacted all African countries, particularly the continent's three major markets of South Africa, Nigeria, and Egypt, which suffered declines of 22.9%, 13.6%, and 6.3%, respectively.  

Transsion brands (Tecno, Infinix, and Itel) continued to lead the smartphone space in Q1 2020, with a combined unit share of 36.7%, followed by Samsung and Huawei with respective shares of 18.8% and 11.1%. "COVID-19 severely disrupted the industry in Q1 2020, while consumer demand also showed signs of a mild decline," says Taher Abdel-Hameed, a senior research analyst at IDC. "In such an environment, consumers are moving towards more affordable entry-level and mid-range devices. Xiaomi benefited from this trend and was able to drive growth over the quarter while most of the other popular brands reported declines."

Looking ahead, IDC expects Africa's smartphone market to decline 9.1% year on year in unit terms for 2020 as a whole. "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. "While we expect to see a recovery in the second half of the year through normalization efforts undertaken by governments, the heavy impact of the pandemic on the economies will be felt on the overall 2020 smartphone market."

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