Annual smartphone sales in Africa and the Middle East are forecast to grow by a CAGR of 15% to reach 238 million units by 2020.

According to Pyramid Research, this will surpass the 204 million unit sales in North America and 201 million unit sales in Latin America.

Following significant network investments by African operators to capitalize on the rising demand for data services, operators are increasingly becoming concerned with increasing the number of smartphone users on their networks.

Device financing – a direct approach to boosting smartphone usage.
Operators providing device financing schemes is one of the four direct strategies detailed in the report. In a region characterised by low income levels, smartphone prices can be prohibitively expensive.

To overcome this, African operators have partnered with banks to address this barrier to purchasing smartphones, such as Tigo Ghana’s partnership with Stanbic Bank to provide financing schemes for the Samsung Galaxy range of devices.

“However, a key limitation is the large unbanked population in Africa. To overcome this, operators need to consider financing schemes using mobile money,” says Mak Rahnama, Senior Analyst at Pyramid Research.

It is not just about just selling more devices.
Indirect strategies, which focus on increasing mobile data usage to drive smartphone adoption, are also found to be essential given the majority of consumers in African markets purchase their devices from various retail channels (e.g. informal sector, independent retailers) rather than directly from operators.

Rahnama states that “by providing OTT localised content, operators can incentivise consumers to purchase smartphones, and in-turn increase smartphone penetration on their networks.”

The report provides an in-depth analysis of three indirect strategies that operators can deploy to boost smartphone usage on their networks.

Huawei Probed by US for Sanctions Busting
China’s Huawei has been served with a subpoena by the US Commerce Department investigating allegations that it may have broken US sanctions on Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan and Syria.

The subpoena calls for Huawei to turn over information related to shipments to those countries over the past five years.

Huawei has not yet been accused of wrongdoing. In a statement, it said that it was committed to complying with laws and regulations where it operated.

“In particular, Huawei has a strict code of conduct, rigorous training, and detailed policies relating to export control compliance and actively cooperates with the relevant government agencies, including the Department of Commerce, regarding Huawei’s compliance with export control laws,” a company spokesperson said in an email.

The investigation appears to be similar to one which ensnared ZTE, which sold equipment to the embargoed countries based on components supplied by US suppliers.

The investigation into ZTE highlighted an unnamed rival company which ZTE executives were said to be copying in their efforts to sell to the embargoed countries.

The semi-official China Daily newspaper cited an official as claiming this was a sign of US protectionism against Chinese rival companies.