MWC 19 wrapped up a couple of weeks ago, and with it brings the promise of new mobile hardware for local consumers. The big question is whether consumers are indeed in need of new devices.
According to IDC, this is not the case, with the research firm noting that 2018 was a tough year in terms of smartphone shipments worldwide and that trend is predicted to continue this year.
That said Africa still has an appetite for new hardware, according to IDC's latest report.
More specifically their Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker report found that the African smartphone market grew by 2.3 percent, which is the highest growth the region has experienced since 2015. More specifically three countries in particular spurring on this growth – South Africa, Nigeria and Egypt.
It is important to point out, however, that shipments in the region still declined by 1.9 percent year-on-year, with 215.3 million units in 2018.
Diving deeper into the numbers, IDC highlighted a few key brands as driving the growth on the continent. In the feature phones space for example, Transsion (Tecno, Infinix and Itel) was the market leader in 2018, with a combined unit share of 58.7 percent. Following them was Nokia (HMD Global) with a 9.6 percent market share across Africa.
As for smartphones Samsung and Huawei dominated things, with respective market shares of 36.9 percent and 12.4 percent, showing that the South Korean brand is still able to fight off the competition from its Chinese rivals for now.
"A new wave of local/regional brands are emerging across the continent," says Taher Abdel-Hameed, a senior research analyst at IDC.
"Despite the success of Transition brands in both the smartphone and feature phone categories, it is also worth noting the phenomenal growth enjoyed by Huawei and its sub-brand Honor in Africa's smartphone space. Together, these two brands saw their shipments increase by a combined 47.9 percent year on year in 2018, spurred by their ambitious expansion plans in emerging markets and strong focus on affordable devices," he adds.
As for 2019's outlook IDC views another slight decline in shipments for Africa, with 213.6 million units predicted, but smartphone shipments are still expected to grow by 5.4 percent regardless. 5G is also anticipated to play a factor according to the research firm, but not this year.
"There is always the possibility of technological leapfrogging in the innovation accelerators domain when Africa's 5G markets are considered," says Ramazan Yavuz, a research manager at IDC.
"4G-ready devices constituted only 35 percent all smartphones in 2016 in Africa. Considering 4G-ready devices are expected to surpass 72 percent of all smartphones by 2020, 5G smartphone penetration could be expected to roll out faster when the prices become more and more affordable after initial launches," he concludes.