Nokia has for long been the most dominant phone manufacturer in Nigeria and Africa as a whole. At the onset, its success was as a result of its low end and feature phones which were aggressively introduced into the African market at the start of the continent’s mobile revolution.
Though these phones enjoyed widespread adoption, Nokia also introduced its range of smartphone devices into the Nigerian market – devices that have helped it continue to dominate both at the high and low end of the Nigerian cellular phone market.
Despite the popularity of smart phone brands like the Blackberry and increasingly, cheap Android devices by manufacturers such as Huawei and Samsung, Nokia still leads the pack by miles and it appears it will take a few more years to unseat the African cell phone king.
Recent polls conducted by 2go, arguably Nigeria’s biggest mobile social network with over 10 million monthly active users proves the continued dominance of Nokia smartphones.
According to the survey, about 54% of its users plan to buy Nokia smartphones compared to about 29% who plan to buy a Blackberry smartphone. Only about 7% plan to buy an iPhone, 4% plan to buy a Samsung smartphone while only about 2% plan to buy an LG smartphone.
The results are shocking given the perceived dominance of Blackberry devices as the dominant smartphone of choice in the country. It is important to note though that though Nokia still reigns King, Blackberry devices are likely the fastest growing device of choice in the smartphone category and will likely soon take the number one spot. This trend was witnessed in South Africa where the Blackberry overtook Nokia last year with about 4.8 million blackberry smartphones in the country compared to Nokia’s 4 million.
Blackberry has been taking the Nigerian market very seriously, opening a Nigerian office, courting developers and actively going after the youth segment with youth targeted brand activation and awareness events.
Its very aggressive channel marketing partnerships with virtually all of Nigeria’s mobile phone operators from MTN to Glo will likely continue to power its rapid market share growth in Nigeria.
However, for it to really infiltrate Nigeria’s mass market, prices of its devices will need to fall to make it within the reach of the average Nigerian. Either that or the purchasing power of the average Nigerian would have to rise rapidly to make it more within the reach of their wallet.
The reason why this is important is that the Nigerian market is often touted as an attractive market for mobile phones with its over 100 million mobile subscribers. However, for these mobile subscribers to convert to actual sales for smart phone manufacturers, their smart phones actually have to be affordable for majority of Nigerians and the 2go crowd is quite representative of this majority. For instance, over 20% of Nigerians are under the age of 20.
This is 2go’s core audience. Lack of affordability would mean that the phones will be affordable only to a small percentage of Nigerians – largely, the elite. The real opportunity is in Nigeria’s mass market and only affordable prices will open up the vast opportunities inherent there to phone manufacturers. It will be interesting to see the rate of adoption of cheap smartphones in Nigeria’s mass market in the coming years. To compete effectively, many brands might have to crash their prices in the country. Only time will tell whether the economics of this will make sense for device manufacturers in the long run.
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