Chinese brands dominate Nigeria’s mobile phone market
•NCC type-approved phone hits 1,985
The number of phones approved for sale in the country by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) increased to 1,985 as of April 2023.
Checks showed that 24 new phone models were approved in the latest update from NCC between January and now. As of January, the figure was 1,961 before hitting 1,985 in April.
Checks by The Guardian showed that there are brands from countries including Finland, France, America, India, Japan, Philippines, Taiwan, South Korea, South Africa and UAE. However, Chinese brands have continued to flood and dominate the Nigerian market with over 300 models in the last 15 years.
Some of these phone brands include Tecno Mobile, Nokia, Wiko, Samsung, Panasonic, Huawei, Asus, Apple, HP, Google, Gionee, Alcatel, Oppo among others.
With huge capital flights almost daily, none of these foreign brands have been committed to having a manufacturing plant in Nigeria. Painfully, the indigenous operator, AfriOne struggles to stay afloat in the country.
As of February 2020, type–approved phones were 1,492, it rose to 1,843 in April 2022 and 1,891 as of November 2022.
The NCC is empowered by the Nigerian Communications Act 2003 to establish and enforce standards for all telecommunications equipment in operation in Nigeria to ensure that they operate seamlessly and safely within the Nigerian telecommunications environment. However, despite the regulatory efforts, thousands of unapproved phone brands are still being sold across the country.
While the unapproved phones are in most cases sub-standard or fake, they sell faster than the approved ones as they are sold at cheaper prices.
As one of his advocates on the need for all phones in the country to be type-approved, the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof Umar Danbatta, warned Nigerians not to buy any phone that has not been certified for the market by the regulator.
Danbatta, who frowned at the proliferation of counterfeit handsets in the country, said: “The menace of counterfeit and substandard handsets has assumed a global dimension and requires a lot of education on the part of the consumers and collaboration with other government agencies to address it.
“Cases of influx and patronage of counterfeit handsets are more rampant in developing countries, such as Nigeria, where importers bring in substandard phones without recourse to the regulatory type-approval process aimed at certifying such devices as fit for the market.”
Meanwhile, Africa’s smartphone market declined for the sixth consecutive quarter in Q4 2022, with shipments down 17.8 per cent year on year (YoY) to 17.6 million units. That’s according to the insights from International Data Corporation (IDC), with the firm’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker showing that Africa’s feature phone market also declined in Q4 2022, with shipments down 16.2 per cent to total 22.7 million units.
A Senior Research Analyst at IDC, Arnold Ponela, said: “The mobile phone industry is now challenged by constrained demand even though the supply constraints that had previously been weighing on the market have started to ease off,”
“Inflation and economic uncertainty have seriously dampened consumer spending, causing vendors to cut back drastically on shipments as their largest markets continue to struggle. The situation is not unique to Africa, with smartphone shipments declining across all major global markets in 2022.”
According to IDC, the biggest decline was seen in Egypt, where smartphone shipments were down 56.2 per cent YoY in Q4 2022, with the introduction of new import regulations leading to device shortages and higher prices. This situation has been further exacerbated by the Egyptian pound’s devaluation against the U.S. dollar, the challenging economic environment, and the fact that the government has approved very few letters of credit (LCs), which are required for import payments on non-essential goods such as mobile phones.
IDC noted that Nigeria’s smartphone market declined 32.1 per cent YoY in Q4 2022 due to sustained high inflation and a shortage of U.S. dollars in the country. South Africa was the least affected market in the region, declining just 1.8 per cent YoY, thanks to an increased focus on the country from Chinese vendors, an improved performance from local brands, and promotional activities that took place during the festive season.