Dear mobile manufacturer, Ignore Nigeria at own risk

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Apple Inc.
This feature article is inspired by a BBM message from an acquaintance popularly known as Chxta:

First Nokia, then BB, now Apple (Samsung has outsold them the last two quarters). When things get tough for brands in America, then they come here.

While not entirely true, this message strikes a cord. I say its not entirely true because Nokia has not been guilty of this. Nokia is the only mobile manufacturer that consistently gave the Nigerian market the attention that it deserved – and they did it for years.

Nokia didn’t turn to Nigeria because it was in trouble. Nokia invested in Nigeria when they were doing fine. So, we must exclude Nokia from this list.

Having gotten Nokia out of the way, I see no problem with the rest of the statement. For years, RIM makers of BlackBerry ignored Nigeria. In recent years, as their fortunes in North America have waned, they have had to fix their gaze on these shores.

Apple, the darling boy of the mobile world for years, ignored the Nigerian market. We were not good enough for their consideration. If you’ve been following my writings here on Mobility, you will recall that I have said that the iPhone winning streak wouldn’t last and that sales would drop eventually.

Well, Prophet Mo was right. IPhone sales are dropping. Samsung has outsold them. Some reports also say that Nokia shipped more Windows Phone devices in North America than Apple shipped iPhones on same continent. I am yet to verify this. One thing is clear though, the iPhone market in North America is saturated.

And guess – Apple now needs us. Ha! The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. They are looking to improve marketshare by reaching out to Nigeria.

News has it that Apple has appointed four authorised resellers in Nigeria and offering warranty on their products purchased through those channels. Shock, horror, Apple are also looking at entering into partnership with network operators.

It is good news for Apple fans in Nigeria, and it will help Apple sell more too. A win-win situation. Still, it must be said: any mobile manufacturer who ignores the Nigerian market does so at their own risk. They will eventually eat humble pie and come courting us when push comes to shove.

Having made this point, I am looking at Nokia and thinking that they are making a big mistake in ignoring the Nigerian smartphone market at this time after all the years of investment here. It just sounds all wrong. Perhaps we shall not have too long to wait to see them do a u-turn and start pushing Windows Phones here too.

Everyone else seems to be courting Nigeria as a smartphone market. Meanwhile, Nokia who used to own the Nigerian smartphone market are focusing on S40 feature phones only. What’s the point of ignoring such a vibrant market when eventually you must seek refuge there when things look down?

Nigeria is not one of the world’s most vibrant mobile markets for nothing.

  1. If Apple really means business, they need to do these:
    Open their signature Apple stores in Nigeria at least 3 for a start in Major cities where you can officially buy all their products and accessories WITH WARRANTY. The Macbook Air costs 330k for d entry level for example and buying it without a warranty valid for ones country is suicidal. Same goes for iphones.
    Apple should work with telcos regarding subsidised contract phones which are not popular in Nigeria. It is easier to collect 5k twenty four times than to collect 100k at once from people.

  2. It is often apposite to make comparisons between the mobile devices and the automobile world.

    Devices are being churned out by Apple and Samsung at frenetic paces. These devices are not consumables, at least not in the way that food or toothpaste is consumable.

    Like in Japan where there are too many cars on the autobahns already,, if the manufacturers want to keep selling, they need to shift their focus to where there is less saturation. Directly, or indirectly.

    As in the auto world, they encourage people to trade in their old devices for ever newer products. The old models then get pushed to the less developed countries.

    Like mobiles, like cars!

    The Tokunboh mobile phone market is thriving here too. Like for cars!

    Therefore, even when it appears some big name brands ignore certain markets, those ‘irrelevant ‘ markets still get catered for, indirectly.

  3. “Having made this point, I am looking at Nokia and thinking that they are making a big mistake in ignoring the Nigerian smartphone market at this time after all the years of investment here. It just sounds all wrong.”

    You are right Sir…There is a market for their windows smartphone in Nigeria. Recently a friend bought one for 150k because it is not officially in the country.

  4. Microsoft opened its Windows Phone app store to over 160 countries and counting, that should tell you something. Microsoft has the intention of achieving similar success that it did on the desktop platform with the mobile platform too. Microsoft had tried its hands on the Apple approach and that spelt disaster for them and by extension Nokia, so it is easing on the padlock and opening things up a bit.

    Nokia was busy trying to crack the North American market, and the previous WP7.x’s woeful performance didn’t give Nokia enough encouragement to bother with Nigeria and other African nations. WP8 I believe is going to bring about a huge change both for Microsoft and Nokia and Nokia will eventually be able to spread its attention and cater for markets like Nigeria and the rest of Africa.

  5. I hope they would also consider accessories for their Ipods too as my device has been close to useless for a while now as the battery needs to be replaced. Or does anyone in the house know where i can do that at the moment?

  6. @jaykidist, those accessories are very scarce. It took me great time to get original accessories for my wife’s iPhone too. Ended getting them at the Galleria.

    @etimbukbassey, while would anyone spend such on a Lumia? Even the Lilia 900 retails now for $520 in the US. That’s like half the price your friend paid.

    @harry, you are very right there. Though it wasn’t that WP7 performed woefully, but the availability of alternatives (droids) that offered more than the WP7 devices did. Nokia already had the infrastructure and distribution channel here in Nigeria to use for the sale of their WP8 devices. They will surely make WP8 devices available here. They have no choice. Nigeria is a lucrative market. I will let you into my experience in the past few weeks. Wanted to help a colleague get the galaxy tab2 10.1. Went to slot 3weeks ago and was told they had sold out and that I should check back. Went there after a week and they had sold out again. I then informed the manager to call me once they have it. I was calked two weeks later and told they only have 2 remaining. Rushed down immediately and right before me someone was picking one of the two. I was lucky to buy the last. The manager even told me she has ten other customers awaiting her calls for the same tab. Not that other retailers don’t have the tab. But people need those with the samsung 24months warranty. That is the benefit of having an official distribution channel. It increases patronage and Nigeria is a huge market for tech products right now. Even Samsung couldn’t keep pace with demands here. I heard it was same experience for the s3 as well.
    Any manufacturer that ignores Nigeria is not ready to make money.

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