In 2020, TECNO beat Samsung to claim Africa smartphone top spot

TECNO managed to replace Samsung as Africa’s top smartphone brand for the first time in 2020, riding on a successful launch of models in the affordable segment and continued market spending, according to Counterpoint Research’s Market Monitor service. The Transsion brand achieved this feat against the backdrop of a 6.7% YoY fall in Africa’s smartphone shipments in 2020. Much of the damage was done in the first half of the year due to retail and supply chain disruptions caused by COVID-19, which were partially offset by a swift recovery in the second half due to pent-up demand.

Commenting on the market dynamics, Senior Analyst Yang Wang said, “Looking at the entire year, the African smartphone market outperformed other regions but was not immune to disruptions caused by the pandemic. In the second quarter of 2020 was especially difficult as demand was hammered when most countries entered lockdowns. Smartphone shipments during the quarter saw a YoY drop of 27%.”

Wang added: “Restrictions started easing in July. Demand followed suit, riding on a surge in promotional activities, even as COVID-19 cases ticked upwards heading into the Christmas shopping season. In the fourth quarter of 2020 actually eked out a 1.5% gain in YoY terms, the best quarter on record.”

Exhibit 1: Africa Smartphone Shipment Market Share, 2020

Counterpoint Research - Africa Smartphone Shipment Market Share in 2020

Source: Counterpoint Research Market Monitor

Market summary

  • TECNO became Africa’s top smartphone brand in 2020. Despite disruptive trading conditions in the first half of the year across key sub-Saharan Africa markets, TECNO came back strongly in the second half after successfully launching models in the affordable segment, and continued market spending throughout the pandemic. TECNO is poised for further market share gains in 2021.
  • Samsung saw its market share retreat in all price segments following supply chain disruptions in the earlier parts of the year and a somewhat hesitant reaction to market headwinds towards the year end. Still, Samsung enjoys impeccable brand image and strength in formal channels. The mid-level A series will be crucial to its success going forward.
  • itel’s shipments were hit extremely hard initially due to the lockdown disproportionately affecting independent markets and less well-off customers. In the second half, itel rebounded strongly due to pent-up demand. Its positioning as the most price-friendly brand is a key value proposition to the African market, and is likely to continue to take market share from grassroots rivals in smaller markets.
  • Huawei held on to the fourth spot, mainly due to resilient performance through the first three quarters of the year, despite headwinds from the US trade ban. It benefitted from strong market presence and brand image, and good volume from the entry-level Y series. However, the brand’s shipments declined significantly in the fourth quarter, and are expected to slide further in 2021. Some of its market presence and resources may be taken over by the newly spun off HONOR brand.
  • Infinix saw market share gains in 2020 due to strong second half-year performance. The brand has the highest ASP (average selling price) among Transsion brands, but prices are coming down to reflect market realities. Infinix benefitted from clearer market positioning in 2020, and is expected to gain further market share in 2021.
  • Xiaomi’s shipments grew 126% YoY, as the brand made aggressive market entry initiatives, with encouraging sales in Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria and Kenya. The company is re-establishing its offline presence and will benefit from more direct involvement in managing channels, which will reflect in further market share gains in 2021.
  • OPPO’s shipments grew 57% YoY. It is also making a serious entry in Africa, with early success in North African markets like Egypt and Algeria. The brand is focusing on building offline capabilities with key operators and channel partners. It is likely to make a strong push in the high mid-price segment.

Exhibit 2: Africa Smartphone Shipment by Price Band ($)

Counterpoint Research - Africa Smartphone Shipment by Price Band ($)Source: Counterpoint Research Market Monitor

Speaking about smartphone prices in the African market, Wang said: “The ASP decreased 15% between 2018 and 2020, and today over 80% of Africa’s smartphone shipments come from the below- $200 band. We can expect further replacement of feature phones by entry-level smartphones, leading to the ASP likely remaining under pressure in the next few years.”

2020 also saw sales of the first 5G capable smartphones in Africa. 5G is unlikely to be a main factor in the African market in the next few years though, as the deployment of 5G commercial networks is still in its infancy in the continent. Still, there is room for 5G smartphones in Africa, especially if prices can drop below $200, as Counterpoint expects to happen in the near future.


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