By DERRICK SILIMINA
As overseas corporations make the most of Africa’s yawning market for technology and trade, Chinese mobile phone brands are now overtaking dominant smartphone names.
While the developed world still too often views the continent as a charity case, many Chinese companies see business opportunities.
The success of China’s leading phone brands such as Tecno, Itel, and Infinix among others have shown how firms with the right product and strategic pricing can influence socio-economic growth in any society they operate in.
In most Zambian towns, busy streets are awash with the bright shopfronts of Chinese flagship cell phone brands, a sign that shows that some Asian firms are transforming lives of local entrepreneurs in the country.
The rising appetite for smartphones, encouraged by affordable Internet costs and increased mobile-based innovations in the country, has sparked a higher demand for Chinese mobile brands on the local market.
This has in turn created more jobs among the local entrepreneurs who are both retailers and suppliers of mobile devices and accessories.
“I started selling cell phones since 2018 and that time, my business started small with a few handsets and a couple of accessories at a makeshift store. Then, I used to struggle to sell a single handset per day, but thanks to continuing supply of Chinese phones on the market with advanced features just like other big brands like Samsung or Iphones, I have progressed,” says Brighton Mbewe.
Just like other upcoming mobile phone dealers in the country, Mbewe 38, is owner of Mobile Tech, an outlet situated in Lusaka’s sprawling town centre market.
Over the years, prominent Chinese mobile phone brands have made aggressive inroads into the Zambian market. A walk through Lusaka’s central business district on any given day, one is welcomed to green, blue and red balloon towers and music blasting from each stand.
A glimpse inside Thomas Kunda’s shop situated on Chachacha Road, in the heart of Zambia’s capital, shows how well-stocked outlets have become, and mostly with Chinese-made mobile gadgets.
“Infinix model is selling like hot cake here. I sell more of these gadgets per week than any other brands,” Kunda, a retailer of mobile phone Gizmos says.
China’s increased involvement in the African telecommunications industry is part of its multidimensional engagement with the continent to enhance trade and cooperation.
Transsion Holdings is a private Chinese cell phone manufacturer of brands such as Tecno, Itel and Infinix, whose ongoing tussle for market share against other big global brands in the country is amazing.
With a population of more than 18 million people, Zambia’s huge and still growing market for the latest cell phones calls for increased smartphone shipments in the country where communication is really about Chinese brands.
It is still strange to the developed world that Transsion has left global players like Samsung and Apple, among others, trailing in its wake in a continent that is home to more than a billion people.
The telecom giant is one of China’s biggest smartphone makers but interestingly, it has never sold a single handset in China.
The Shenzhen-based tech firm is one of the top-selling mobile phone makers in Africa, according to the latest Vendor Data Overview by the International Data Corporation (IDC), the premier global provider of market intelligence, advisory services, and events for the information technology, telecommunications, and consumer technology markets.
In Zambia, Transsion’s ability to build on its market share has found a sweet spot for consumers on price and features, giving it prominence in the country’s yawning appetite for affordable smartphones.
With the Southern African country’s already strong mobile-phone penetration, it has continued to undergo a conversion from basic USSD phones to feature phones, onwards to smartphones; thanks to Transsion’s authoritative market research.
Mobile handsets such as Infinix-Hot-Play and Tecno-Camon15-Premier among others offer impressive specifications and designs to help create and share personal social media habits. These brands fetches from K1, 000 to K2, 500 per handset.
“I enjoy this mobile phone model due to its stylish design and ultra-battery capacity of 6000mAh to power it; and it brings my personality to another level,” claims Angela Mumba, a fanatic of Tecno mobile phone.
LAPSES IN NETWORK
Beyond pricing, most Chinese telecom firms have built their businesses over the years by producing phones with locally-tailored features that include double-SIM card slots; to ensure callers avoid lapses in network coverage.
Their cell phone brands also come equipped with a sharp camera technology calibrated to darker skin tones and stronger battery lifespan—a vital feature most cherished by local users in Zambia where electricity supply is intermittent as power black-outs are a daily routine.
With a budget-friendly price tag, most Chinese mobile phones cost less than K1, 000 and some go as cheap as K500—a game changer in the southern African nation where more than 60 per cent of people live in abject poverty.
Lusaka-based economic analyst Mambo Haamaundu observes that global entrepreneurs like Transsion have realized the opportunities to make money in Zambia through the sale or production of cell phones, a move that has awakened or birthed more local entrepreneurs in the country.
“Our local entrepreneurs need to seize every opportunity because you can be a giant today and a small boy will overtake you tomorrow and become a giant. Most successful Chinese firms are successful today all because they understand the market that they operate in and they are able to satisfy the needs of that market.”