Feature phones made a comeback in Africa as smartphone growth slowed last year
After a decade of strong growth, the expected crossover of smartphones finally overtaking feature phone usage in Africa did not happen last year. In fact, feature phones had a bit of a surge.
Smartphone shipments to the continent grew by only 3.4% year on year—a sharp slump compared to double-digit growth rates recorded in recent years according to data from IDC, a technology research firm.
The slowdown in smartphone shipments was down to economic headwinds in some of the continent’s leading markets. Nigeria, Africa’s largest market, had a “particularly tough year”. Nigeria had its first recession in two decades and the naira devaluation has weakened purchasing power of locals and hurt imports.
There was a slowdown across the board in smartphone shipments to Africa and the overall mobile phone market share of feature phones increase for the first time in six years, growing from 53% in 2015 to 56% in 2016.
In North Africa, total shipments increased in 2016 but the “pace of growth slowed year on year due to exchange-rate fluctuations in Egypt and security issues in Algeria,” says IDC.
In total, mobile phone shipments to Africa grew by 10.1% last year to reach a notable milestone by passing the 200 million mark for the first time.