Newly released data from IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker shows that Africa’s smartphone market saw shipments grow 12,5% year on year (YoY) in Q4 2023 to total 19,8-million units.

Smartphone markets across Africa performed well due to the focus of Chinese brands on the region amid a period of high inflation, local currency devaluations, and forex shortages.

In contrast, Africa’s feature phone market saw shipments decrease 7,8% over the same period to total 20,9-million units.

“Kenya recorded the region’s highest YoY growth rate in terms of smartphone shipments in Q4 2023, coming from a low base when the market’s dominant brands reduced their shipments in Q4 2022 in an effort to manage high inventory levels,” says George Mbuthia, a senior research analyst at IDC.

“Local assembly initiatives for low-end smartphones (below $200) also contributed to the strong growth seen in Kenya. In addition, mobile phone financing schemes have enabled consumers to acquire new smartphones by enabling payment installments over a long time period.”

Nigeria overcame market volatility and a significant currency devaluation to record Africa’s second-highest growth rate thanks to a strong push by Chinese brands. South Africa recorded a YoY decline due to the challenging economic environment and partly due to delays in shipments at the country’s ports.

Transsion brands (Tecno, Itel, Infinix) continued to dominate Africa’s smartphone market with their ultra-low-end devices (below $100), which were most marketable to a consumer base challenged by low purchasing power due to reduced income and the growing dollar rate. Samsung and Xiaomi followed the Transsion brands in second and third place, respectively.

Shipments of ultra-low-end smartphones (below $100) to the region were up 5,2% YoY in Q4 2023, while shipments of low-end ($100<$200) and midrange ($200<$400) devices increased 18,9% and 16,6%, respectively, indicating strong demand for budget-friendly smartphones.

Looking ahead, IDC forecasts YoY growth in smartphone shipments of 2,8% for 2024.

“Handset renewal cycles have slowed as smartphones carry better features, increasing their longevity, and are more durable,” says Ramazan Yavuz, a senior research manager at IDC. “However, in Africa, the transition from feature phones will support smartphone growth in the short and medium term, while AI phones and 5G adoption will fuel Africa’s smartphones growth in the long term.”