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Chinese smartphones gain foothold in African market with quality, affordability

(Xinhua)    09:55, October 26, 2020

NAIROBI, Oct. 25 (Xinhua) -- Benson Mwendwa early this week braved scorching heat and noise from a swelling crowd of onlookers to attend to customers who flocked his phone shop located in downtown sections of the Kenya capital, Nairobi.

The entrepreneur showed an amiable demeanour as he engaged clients who were sampling different TECNO mobile phones that were neatly arranged at his elegant shop located in one of Nairobi's bustling downtown street, Luthuli Avenue.

Mwendwa said that his seven years' experience in selling smartphones in Nairobi's central business district has been a case study in grit, resilience, patience and humility.

His shop is a prized destination for customers looking for China's Transsion smartphone brands like TECNO that have resonated with Kenyans from all walks of life thanks to their superior quality and affordability.

Dozens of sleek TECNO billboards dot the newly renovated pedestrian lanes along Nairobi's Luthuli Avenue amid growing fondness for Chinese smartphones among Kenyans.

Mwendwa told Xinhua that he felt honored to be among the growing army of local vendors who deal with smartphones from Transsion Holdings.

Kenyan consumers have developed a strong affinity towards Transsion's smartphone brands like TECNO thanks to their high quality, affordability and longer battery life, said Mwendwa.

"It is easy to use even for customers with limited education," Mwendwa added.

The retail price of mobile phones sourced from different parts of the world that are displayed at his shop ranges from 1,999 shillings (about 18.4 U.S. dollars) to 19,999 shillings.

However, the smartphones from Shenzhen Transsion Holdings Co., Ltd. (referred to as Transsion) account for the bulk of brands on display cabinets that dot Mwendwa's shop.

He said that he sells an average of 120 mobile phones every month, and about 70 percent are Transsion brands.

Ken Musila, a 27-year-old government employee admitted that he has become a royal fan of Transsion's smartphone brands, and he bought another new TECNO smartphone lately thanks to persuasion by Mwendwa.

Vimal Gada, an entrepreneur joined Transsion's team of salesmen about a decade ago when the Chinese smartphone brands were slowly making a wave in Kenya.

"At that time, there were too many mobile phone brands in the Kenyan market, and Transsion's advertisements were not prominent. It was difficult to sell 100 units even in a good month," said Gada.

However, he said that he has opened 16 stores in north-western Kenyan town of Eldoret and has a 50-person sales team that has managed to sell nearly 60,000 Transsion phones every month.

Gada said that Transsion smartphone brands have created a buzz in the African market thanks to their good quality, longer battery retention and sleek camera.

The high demand for TECNO and other Transsion brands in Kenya is a reflection of their growing appeal in the larger African market.

"KING" OF AFRICAN MOBILE PHONES

In 2006, a team from Transsion landed in Africa where it sought to establish a footprint and in recent years, the Chinese firm has been described by analysts as "the 'king' of African mobile phones".

A recent report compiled by Transsion indicated that its global shipment of mobile phones hit 137 million units in 2019.

Analysis from International Data Corporation (IDC) indicates that Transsion's market share in Africa reached 52.5 percent in 2019 while its smartphone market share in the continent has exceeded 40 percent and ranked number one by the end of second quarter of 2020, according to Transsion.

George Zhu, chairman and general manager of Transsion, said the company invested in COVID-19 containment measures to ensure that its operations in Africa were not disrupted by the pandemic.

The company has embarked on a new marketing blitz amid quest to increase sales in Africa's untapped markets.

Transsion's success in Africa lies in its continuous insights and solutions to the "pain points" of local consumers besides promoting innovations.

"We have insight into the consumption habits and pain points of local users, and continue to readjust products to meet changing consumer demands," said Zhu.

Transsion research team found that local consumers in Africa love to take photos and share them on social media platforms.

"So we cooperated with the local research team in Africa to analyze the aesthetic preferences of local users, and find innovative opportunities for image optimization, so that the photos taken by users are clearer, natural, and beautiful," said Zhu.

Likewise the company's launch of dual-SIM mobile phone in Africa became a sensation among local clients.

In the recent past, Transsion has increased its investments in research and development to boost innovation capabilities and maintain a competitive edge in the African market.

Africa's digital revolution has accelerated thanks to supportive infrastructure and entrepreneur spirit of the continent's youth.

In October 2019, Transsion launched the "TRANSSION Innovation Hub" to support the incubation and growth of digital enterprises in the continent.

The company said it has been involved in development of seven mobile applications that have more than 10 million monthly active users in Africa.

Among these applications include Boomplay, a music streaming platform jointly developed by Transsion and NetEase, which is popular with Africa's budding artists and entrepreneurs.

LOCALIZATION TO BOOST DIGITAL REVOLUTION

Rocky Wang defied odds to land in Kenya with a singular determination to succeed as a salesman for Transsion in the wider African market at a time when consumers had limited exposure to Chinese smartphones.

"When we first arrived in Africa, the most asked question was, 'compared with other brands, what makes Transsion different from others?'"

He said that he and local sales staff carried backpacks walking along the streets to sell Transsion mobile phones, which later became a prized commodity in many parts of Africa.

Papa Medoune Thiam, who joined Transsion's sales team in Cote d'Ivoire in 2011 said the company has provided him a platform to realize career mobility and financial independence.

"Transsion provided me a stable job while preparing me to face life's challenges with courage and determination," said Thiam.

When Transsion established a plant in Ethiopia in 2011 to produce mobile phones and home appliances, local youth like Nibret Ayalew found a respite after enduring a period without stable jobs.

Ayalew joined the plant in August 2012 when it had less than 40 local employees but the number has grown to 1,000 thanks to implementation of a robust localization program.

Transsion is a place where you can realize your dreams as long as you are willing to work hard, said Ayalew.

Smartphones produced at Transsion's Ethiopian plant have met a growing local and regional demand while establishing new distribution and after sale service centers across Africa.

Zhu said that Transsion will leverage on its strong presence in Africa to rally behind the continent's digital revolution that is being powered by smartphones and growing connectivity.

Transsion has invested in basic education for African children alongside environmental conservation and poverty alleviation programs in line with its corporate social responsibility ethos.

A partnership between Transsion and the UN High Commission for Refugees will help improve access to basic education among children residing in Dadaab refugee camp located in northern Kenya.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Wen Ying, Bianji)

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