Canalys: African Smartphone Market Surges 24% in Q1 2024

Affordable handsets will empower Africa in the digital economy
Research from analysis company Canalys shows Africa’s smartphone market is becoming more affordable, which will drive growth across telecommunications

Research from Canalys has revealed that the African smartphone market grew significantly in Q1 2024. The market has advanced by 24% year on year to reach 18.2m units, due to new product launches from top vendors and decreasing inflation in most markets. This makes Africa the third fastest-growing smartphone region in the world for the quarter. 

Industry analysis company Canalys is based in Singapore and covers a range of subjects, including smartphones and emerging technologies.

Top smartphone vendors and connectivity innovations in Africa Q1 2024

The five biggest vendors for Q1 2024 include Transsion, Samsung Electronics, Xiaomi Technology, realme and OPPO. 

International telecommunications group Lebara has also been steadily expanding in Africa through strategic partnerships. The company recently announced a move into the growing African market – facilitated by a brand licensing agreement with Nigerian-based VAS2Nets Technologies – which marks a significant milestone in the company's mission to bridge the digital divide and connect people across the globe.

Meanwhile, NTT DATA Middle East and Africa has started deploying its Low Earth Orbit (LEO)-based connectivity services for clients in retail, banking, mining and logistics. The goal is to build a mobile connectivity solution to advance network performance and create an improved client experience across the continent.

Although the Middle East and Africa are adequately provided for by fibre and wireless communications technology, there has been a fresh call for satellite services due to the unique attributes of LEO technology. 

Africa’s smartphone market has experienced growth in:
  • Nigeria: Growing by 42% year on year. Driven by telecom advancements, demand is strong due to its robust financial sector and government initiatives.
  • South Africa: The market grew by 19% due to the prepaid segment and a preference for affordable handsets amid high interest rates.
  • South Africa: The market grew by 19% due to the prepaid segment and a preference for affordable handsets amid high interest rates.
  • Egypt: Thanks to stable EGP and GCC funding, Egypt has grown by 39%.
  • Algeria: The country has seen a 16% rise due to strong consumption and investment.
  • Morocco: A 17% decline, owing to a customs duty hike.

Affordable handsets will empower Africans to participate in the digital economy, driving long-term growth telecommunications

Manish Pravinkumar, Senior Analyst at Canalys who is based in Dubai, shared his thoughts on the results.

“The ultra-low-end segment (sub-US$100) is set to grow by 13% in 2024 as mass-market vendors enhance their offerings,” said Manish. “In Q1 2024, TRANSSION maintained strong momentum, driven by entry-level models and consumer upgrades from lower-ASP African markets.” 

Xiaomi also saw robust growth of 333% in the ultra-low-end segment, thanks to the Redmi Number series and A series models. 

“Xiaomi’s consistent support amid fluctuating currencies and diminishing margins assisted this growth and will continue to boost channel confidence in the near future,” he added. 

Realme leveraged its new Note series and ‘more value for less money’ strategy to re-enter the entry-level segment and despite suffering a small 1% decline, OPPO is expected to strengthen its entry-level portfolio to reach its pre-2022 shipment levels. Samsung’s low-end shipments decreased in Q1, but Samsung is expected to rationalise model pricing in South Africa and Egypt to regain growth momentum.

According to Manish, affordable handsets will empower Africans to actively participate in the digital economy, driving long-term growth for governments, telecom operators and smartphone vendors.

“By 2025, 4G penetration is expected to reach nearly 75% of shipments supported by various initiatives from regional governments and telecom operators,” Manish continued. “Currently, Africa has the world’s highest feature phone penetration rate at 46%.”

Yet the transition to smartphones is expected to fuel continuous growth, with device financing schemes playing a vital role in driving further penetration. 

Canalys expects a 4% growth in 2024 as vendors will face operational challenges due to exchange rate volatility. 

“In the long run, sustainable market practices, such as local manufacturing, as seen in Egypt and potentially applicable to markets such as Nigeria, will be crucial for vendors,” Manish explains. “Additionally, aligning with government-led digitalisation and consumer tech adoption initiatives will be vital for continued progress.”


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