Nigerians are grappling with the harsh reality that smartphones, once considered a ubiquitous commodity, have now become a luxury to many.
Fatima Ahmed, a small business owner in Lagos, expressed her frustration, saying, “I used to rely on my smartphone for everything from communicating with customers to managing my business transactions, but ever since I lost my phone, it has been hard to get another.”
“Now, with the prices so high, I feel disconnected and left behind. It’s like the digital world has become a luxury reserved for the privileged,” she said.
Ememobong Nkana, a banker in one of the tier-one banks said the price of smartphones years ago can’t be compared to what the price is currently at the market as inflation and exchange rates have taken a toll.
She said that in 2021, the Samsung Galaxy A52 was sold to her for N140,000, although it was considered to be a middle-budget phone she felt it was quite expensive. However, the same amount can only get an Itel phone in 2024.
“One of the worst things that can happen this period is for your phone to spoil or be lost and there’s no funds to get a good one, because even the ‘cheap’ ones aren’t cheap anymore,” she added.
“A Samsung Galaxy phone going for 400k plus online is about 700 – 850k in stores and people feel it’s normal. Purchasing mobile phones for 1 million+ even if you’ve got money to squander,” Olamide Praise, a crypto trader said.
In 2021, Alliance for Affordable Internet released a report, which found that the average cost of a smartphone is over 40 percent of the average monthly income in Nigeria and other sub-Saharan African countries.
“In some regions, people would have to spend far more than the global average. For example, in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, the number surpasses 40 percent. Even worse, in the least developed countries, the average person would have to spend over half of their monthly income to buy a smartphone,” the report said.
iPhone, one of the most used brands among Nigerians continues to be a luxury, data reveals that while buying the latest iPhone may not be the wisest financial move for the ordinary Nigerian earning N30,000, the national minimum salary, those who choose to proceed would need to work for at least three years to afford one of its high brands like iPhone 14 upwards.
As of January 2024, the latest pricing for Redmi smartphones at the AK store reveals that the Redmi A2+ with 2GB RAM and 32GB ROM, is now available for purchase at N75,000, according to data sighted by BusinessDay.
Many individuals are left frustrated, as they are unable to save for their desired kind of smartphone. as economic pressure continues to bite the purchasing power of consumers to afford various basic needs.
Experts say the surge in smartphone prices can be attributed to a combination of factors, including the depreciation of the national currency, rising inflation rates, and global supply chain disruptions.
BusinessDay reported that Nigeria’s inflation rate in December shows that it is the highest since January 2003.
The Consumer Price Index report shows that prices rose to 28.92 percent compared with 28.20 percent in November.
A report by analysts at KPMG has projected that inflation to hit 30 percent by December 2023 as a result of the combined influence of fuel subsidy removal and foreign exchange liberalisation.
However, despite several drawbacks affecting the economy, the African smartphone market has grown by 12 percent in the third quarter (Q3) of 2023, data from the International Data Corporation (IDC) shows.
“This indicates that regardless of the harsh economic conditions affecting purchasing power, Africa’s smartphone market continues to show recovery signs, as consumers are buying more devices than ever,” it reports.