• Tuesday, May 21, 2024
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BusinessDay

Lenovo to Debut First Africa Smartphone in Nigeria in 2013

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Lenovo group limited will sell smartphones in Africa for the first time before the end of the year with its first release planned for Nigeria as it seeks markets where it can sell directly to customers.

The Chinese company, the world’s second-biggest maker of personal computers, picked Nigeria because, unlike in South Africa, it doesn’t have to work with local telecommunications companies in order to sell its phones, according to Graham Braum, general manager of Africa for Beijing-based Lenovo.

South Africa is Africa’s biggest economy while Nigeria is the second largest.

“Nigeria is coming towards the end of the year and then we will investigate the rest of Africa,” Braum said in an interview at the company’s offices in Johannesburg yesterday. “We’re trying to sell off the shelf. We’ve picked the open market.”

Lenovo is developing mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets as it seeks to lure customers from Apple Inc., and Samsung Electronics Co., and weather a global slump in demand for PCs.

The company was alone among the world’s four biggest PC makers to report shipments growth in the three months through December, as those of Hewlett-Packard Co., Dell Inc., and Acer Computer International Ltd. fell, according to research by Gartner.

Lenovo shares were down 0.7 percent by 3:12 p.m. in Hong Kong Friday, extending this year’s declines to 3.3 percent. The company is valued at HK$70.9 billion ($9.1 billion).

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation with more than 160 million people, had about 113 million wireless subscribers at the end of 2012.

The number of smartphone users is expected to grow to over 35 million by the end of 2017 from 5.6 million at end of last year, according to research by Informa Telecoms & Media.

Nigeria’s telecommunications companies, led by the local unit of Johannesburg-based MTN Group Ltd (MTN), wield less power than operators in other African markets, making it easier and quicker for Lenovo to release its products, Braum said.

“If you look at South Africa, 99 percent of the business is done through the telcos and that’s a lot of work to do to launch in a telco-based economy,” he said. “Lead time is up to nine months to do all the planning, certification and you cannot align with one network.”

Lenovo may sell its smartphones across as many as six price bands in Nigeria and some could retail at about $500, Oliver Ebel, vice president and general manager of Lenovo Middle East and Africa, said in the same interview.