Up&Ap: Antony Hutia on pioneering mobile innovation in East Africa

In his 20-year-plus career working in the country’s ICT industry, he can definitely say that he’s experienced it all. Having started out at Celtel (now Airtel Kenya), he’s currently at Samsung Electronics East Africa, where he’s making his second stint, the first which ran from early 2012 until early 2015. He’s also held a number of roles at Microsoft and founded (and managed) a number of startups. Currently the Head of Mobile Experience Division at Samsung East Africa, Antony Hutia (pictured) is undeniably the go-to person should you need insights on the mobile device trends in the country, region, and even globally. We recently had

A Conversation with him to share his insights on a number of industry issues and the Samsung brand. Below are excerpts…

QUESTION: Can you provide a brief overview of your role at Samsung East Africa and your journey in the tech space?

ANTHONY HUTIA: As the Head of the Mobile Experience Division at Samsung East Africa, I oversee the strategy and execution of our mobile division. My journey in the technology industry has been diverse and enriching. I began my career in the tech industry as Corporate Sales leader at Kencell Communications, I then moved as the Marketing Manager for MobileDevices for East and Central Africa at LG Electronics before joining Samsung Electronics East Africa, first as the Business to Government Manager.  I then moved on to Microsoft, where I spent over six years transforming the Education Industry in Africa first as the Head of Education Devices West and East Africa, I there after took on a bigger role of Modern Workplace lead in Africa and Levant countries Over seeing Education solutions including Devices for the region. After that I took a strategic career break which led to my now current role as the Head of Mobile Division at Samsung Electronics East Africa.

Q: How does Samsung tailor its mobile experience to meet the unique needs of the African market?

AH: At Samsung, we maintain the same high standards of quality and innovation across all our markets. Our mobile devices are designed to meet global standards and are the same around the world, including Africa. We believe in providing all our customers with the best technology available, ensuring that everyone, regardless of location, has access to our latest advancements and features. This includes the introduction of AI-powered functionalities that enhance user experience, such as improved camera performance, personalized app recommendations, and intelligent battery management. This approach ensures consistency and reliability in the Samsung experience, no matter where our customers are.

Q: What are the key trends you see in mobile usage and technology adoption in East Africa?

AH: One major trend is the rapid adoption of mobile internet and digital services. As of January 2024, Kenya has registered about 63.9 million mobile connections alone. We have noticed a significant shift towards smartphones as prices have become more accessible. Additionally, mobile payments and fintech solutions are booming, providing financial inclusion to many who were previously unbanked which in the ripple effect is the demand for mobile phone.

Q: Samsung is known for its innovation. What are some of the latest technological advancements Samsung is bringing to the mobile market in Africa?

AH: We’re excited about our advancements in AI and IoT integration in smartphones. Features like enhanced camera capabilities using AI, SmartThings integration for a connected home experience, and Knox security for superior data protection are some of the innovations we’re bringing to the market, at Samsung our goal is to push the boundaries of innocation.

Q: How is Samsung leveraging AI and IoT to enhance the mobile experience for users in East Africa?

AH: AI and IoT are at the core of our innovation strategy. AI helps us deliver personalized experiences, such as better battery management and camera enhancements. IoT integration, through our SmartThings platform, allows users to control and monitor their connected devices seamlessly.

Q: What role do you see 5G playing in the mobile landscape of Africa, and how is Samsung rolling this out?

AH: 5G will revolutionize connectivity in Africa, enabling faster internet speeds and new services. Samsung is at the forefront of 5G technology, and we are working closely with network providers in East Africa to ensure our devices are ready to support 5G as it rolls out.

Q: What are the biggest challenges Samsung faces in the East African mobile market, and how are you addressing them?

AH: Challenges include affordability, infrastructure, and competition. We address these by offering a range of devices at different price points, investing in extended warranty local manufacturing and service centres, and continually innovating to stay ahead of competitors.

Q: What opportunities do you see in the mobile space for growth of the mobile sector in East Africa, particularly in terms of new services or market segments?

AH: The mobile payments and fintech sector is a significant growth area. There is also immense potential in mobile health and education services. As smartphone penetration increases, we see opportunities in providing value-added services that cater to these growing needs.

Q: What exciting new products or innovations can we expect from Samsung in the near future?

AH: We have some exciting products in the pipeline, including foldable smartphones and devices with advanced AI capabilities. We are also focusing on enhancing our ecosystem with more interconnected devices and services, our wearables and tablets. And away from the new products and innovation Samsung aims to achieve continuous innovation and understanding customer needs. We invest heavily in R&D and are committed to bringing the latest technology to our consumers.

Q: Finally, what is your vision for the future of mobile technology in East Africa over the next five to ten years?

AH: I envision a future where mobile technology is ubiquitous, driving economic growth and improving quality of life. With advancements in connectivity and digital services, I see East Africa becoming a significant player in the global tech landscape. Samsung is deeply committed to the East African market. We will continue to invest in local talent, infrastructure, and partnerships to deliver innovative products and services that meet the needs of our customers. We are here for the long haul and look forward to contributing to the region’s technological advancement.


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