In 2006, the first TECNO phone hit the market. It was a result of the tireless work of a Nigerian, Nnamdi Ezeigbo, and for most of the decade that followed, TECNO Mobile championed itself as an African brand. TECNO researched, designed and released smartphones for Africans. And Africans lapped it up. Other sister brands, like itel and Infinix, were birthed.
But in the last three years, keen observers would have noticed a gradual shift in dynamics. TECNO Mobile and its siblings began to explore Asian markets in 2017 and have quickly drummed up a strong following there. What is now happening is that while new TECNO phones used to be announced and launched first in Nigeria, and then Kenya, these days, quite a number of them get announced and released first in one Asian market or the other. Weeks later, they come to Nigeria, Kenya and other countries in Africa.
In some cases, the Asian models have superior specs to the models launched in Africa. In other words, TECNO Mobile is shifting its priorities. And it isn’t difficult to see why.
In Q2 2018, for the first time, TECNO made the list of top 10 smartphone brands in the world. The previous quarter, one of its sibling, itel Mobile, had also made that list for the first time. It wasn’t the numbers from sales across Africa that made these feats possible. Africa’s smartphone market is so small on the global stage that TECNO could not have pulled off that feat if it had kept itself locked into Africa alone. The bustling, more prosperous markets of India, Pakistan, Philippines, Malaysia, Myanmar, Indonesia and others in Southeast Asia have the Chinese smartphone makers the needed numbers to rise.
These emerging Asian economies have a combined smartphone market that is more than twice the size of the markets of Africa and the Middle East combined.
No matter how you feel about this ongoing shift in TECNO Mobile’s focus, it is difficult to argue that it is a bad business move. The company is selling more and more millions of TECNO, Infinix and itel smartphones than it used to do. It is raking in more cash. And it is climbing the global chart. TECNO’s investors must be happy.
This shift in priority does not mean that TECNO Mobile will abandon or neglect Africa. They won’t. The continent is still a stronghold for them. As at 2019, TECNO, Infinix and itel combined held 56% of Nigeria’s smartphone market and about 40% of Kenya’s smartphone market. TECNO, Infinix and itel combined have about 50% of the African smartphone market. They would be foolish to let it go. But make no mistake about it: Africa is no longer their main focus. No sensible businessman will place a region that makes them more money on a lower rung on their ladder of priorities. Which is why we are seeing the new trend with product launches and sometimes different specifications of same phone models.
Countries like Nigeria and Kenya, who had enjoyed being the first port of call for new TECNO Mobile phones, will have to make do with second place for the most part. The new phones will mostly be launched first in Asia.
Is anybody losing? Well….apart from key smartphone markets in Africa losing the bragging rights of having new TECNO phones arrive to them first, there isn’t anything to worry about. Everybody wins under this new dispensation. Because of larger sales numbers, TECNO Mobile can take adavantage of economies of scale to keep providing affordable smartphones for all.
All along, TECNO Mobile had publicised itself as an African brand. Has anyone else noticed that in official PR communications, the company is now refered to as a “global premier mobile phone brand”? That is it straight from the horse’s mouth.
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