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Chinese mobile phone company Tecno explains why it only does business in Africa

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China-based mobile phone manufacturer, Tecno Telecom Limited, exclusively does business in Africa. Last year, the company released the first ‘made in Ethiopia’ smartphone. Tecno vice president, Arif Chowdhury was in Nairobi recently and told How we made it in Africa’s Dinfin Mulupi about the firm’s expansion strategy and its plans to move all of its manufacturing to Africa.

Tecno last year launched its N3 Android smartphone.

Tecno last year launched its N3 Android smartphone.

How and why did Tecno enter the African market?

The company started in 2006 in Hong Kong with our first research and development centre in Shanghai, China. For two years, our business focused on the South Asia market. After studying the markets in South East Asia, Africa and Latin America, we found out that Africa would be the most lucrative market for us. We began operations here in 2008 before eventually stopping our business in Asia to exclusively focus on Africa.

Today, Tecno does business in Africa only. We want to be the mobile king of Africa. The continent receives a lot of imports but the products are not always modelled to fit demand here. We ensure our products meet the local demand because they are solely produced for the African market. We are present in 12 countries in East, West and Central Africa where we currently control an average of 20% market share in each of the countries. This year we are going to explore the Southern and Northern Africa markets starting with South Africa and Egypt. We are also going to strengthen relations with technology giants both in manufacturing and service provision to ensure quality in products and customer experience. We have no option but to have the best products. You can’t be a failure in Africa and go somewhere else. We have to make it here.

The African mobile market is dominated by global giants. How do you intend to become king?

Even Tecno is a giant. We fight with them with more localisation and customisation of devices. We are very focused on each of the countries we do business in and their demands. With the right product and communication you can compete with them. The competition is good because it forces all players to bring better devices, better features and better prices. This is the 21st century, anybody and everybody has a chance to make it. Creativity and innovation are, however, important. It is also important to know that just because a firm is successful in Europe does not mean they are guaranteed success in every other market. The question is: what value are they adding to this particular market?

Explain some of the trends you are seeing in Africa’s mobile market

The smartphone is the mobile device to watch this year. The prices are coming down and the sales volumes will increase. This is driving mobile internet access, which then opens up a lot of doors for innovation in that space. Studies indicate that most people now access the internet through their mobile phones as opposed to PCs. We are launching more internet series mobile phones to serve the growing demand. Our research from years back shows that the buyers of Tecno phones are mostly the youth and we have decided to [focus] on this market of people aged 17 to 35. The young people want to be unique. They want unique features that allow them to play and chat.

Tecno released the first ‘made in Ethiopia’ smartphone last year. Are there any plans to roll out plants in other African countries?

We are proud to say that some of the Tecno phones are already ‘made in Africa’. We started a plant in Addis Ababa two year ago and it is doing well so far. We chose Ethiopia because it is unique, looking at it from a strategic point of view. We found Ethiopia’s duty structure to be more attractive. We eventually plan to move our entire production to Africa since this is the only market we serve. We will start with establishing manufacturing plants in Kenya and Nigeria. This will depend highly on a lot of factors like the customs structure and government support we receive.

Some African countries are now past 100% mobile penetration. Are you expecting the mobile devices market to start shrinking?

For the next five to 10 years, we expect Africa to remain the fastest growing market in the world. For the countries that are past 100% penetration, there is still a market for phone replacement. Most countries are, however, still behind in terms of penetration and we therefore expect new subscribers there. We are confident that the market is still huge, and it will be so for the next couple of years.

What challenges do you face?

This is the fastest moving industry. A day in the mobile industry is like a week or month in other industries. We have to constantly launch new products and improve quality and service. The competition here is fierce. The counterfeit phones are also a challenge.

Describe the experience you have had while doing business in Africa.

People who have not visited Africa have the wrong perception of the continent. The challenges are not as bad as the media makes it appear. If you are sincere with the people, they will support you. No other part in the world has as much resources as Africa.

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  • exa

    “You can’t be a failure in Africa and go somewhere else.”

    This statement which is already an insult to Africans suggest that their products have failed everywhere else. Substandard products may be dumped in Africa but that mischievous practice won’t last.

  • http://Google Royal Highness Igwilo

    Technophone is the best phone for Africa because it is avoidable for rich and poor. From Royal Highness Igwilo

  • http://Google Royal Highness Igwilo

    Tecno Phone will tuch the life of Africa, because Techno Phone is afordable than other Phone in Africa that why I enter selling the Phone this year in South Africa. I am the Boss of Tecno Phone now because I got both shops and street market. as old business man in South Africa. I will challenge Samsung, IPhone, Hawaw Nokia phone LG and others.

  • http://none an angry client

    Plz I have a techno phantom pad 2,and despite the fact that i have a free space on the internal memory of over a
    hundred MB ,and a free 5gb on my memory card, it keeps telling me insufficient space on my device,i can’t do anything with it ,I can’t download apps, it’s kinda frustrating,and making me regret why I had to purchase a techno product at all.. Please i need a solution to this problem.

  • rhic rhouge

    Tecno….the best android phone ever.

  • Kelvin Oseji

    Nice one

    • Kelvin Oseji

      Can we make a deal. Am interested in selling ur product here in Nigeria. Pls contact me on my email kelvintemitope62@gmail.com

    • Isiramen Akeeminemen

      How soon is tecno coming out with a tablet that is at least 10 inch wide diagonally? I’ve waited for far too long now. How much longer do I have to wait? Is such a spec is ever going to come out?

  • Ndirangu nicholas

    hi,i would like to sell your phones in wholesale.how can i get them at good price?KENYA

  • Gbadamosi HAkeem. O

    What is the name of the latest tecno now

  • ELBASSIAN SHANONO

    I like tecno because it’s the best mobile company in the world that dominating the nigerian market.

  • http://n/a ZAF

    HI. I AM FROM SOUTH AFRICA AND WOULD LIKE TO KNOW MORE ABOUT YOUR LATEST SMARTPHONE AND ANDROID TABLETS. I SAW 1 OF YOUR PRODUCTS WITH A FRIEND FROM KENYA AND I WAS IMPRESSED WITH THE QUALITY. PLEASE CAN YOU EMAIL ME SPECS , PRICES. THANKS. HOPE TO DO BUSINESS WITH YOU SOON

  • Ngozi Bernadette Anyaegbuna

    Since you are interested in establishing in Nigeria, My state government (Anambra State) one of the biggest commercial city in Nigeria will be pleased to go into partnership with tecno mobile company. I am Special assistant to the governor (development partners. Thank you.

  • nelson ogbeifun

    l what to know why my tecno M9 phone screen has not been fixed by your office in lagos. they complained that the screen they have are bad, when fixed, the pen touch is slow to respond(i.e you touch many times before it responds) there by defeating the purpose of calling it a smartphone.what should i do?

  • OJO ADEKUNLE ADERINTO STANDLY

    gud. love tecno. have made phones better n cheap to use by everybody

  • stephen

    please when will tecno d3 get an update it urgent i realy need to know tanx

  • http://yahoo MANIA

    if no be tecno no others phone.

  • christo

    I AM not finding the model of my tecno phone?

    • http://none@website.com mdavidlee

      thank you for your effort in providing cheap tecno phoned but being cheap doesnt mean you make fake phone that have poor screen display poor settings and poor function and more to that no OTA updates and no firmware and software updates that are meant to reduce bugs people were blindfolded but they are developing skills and once if you dont provide necessary phone requirements mentioned above we shall quit tecno so called smartphone crafts or we rootthem and delete your tecno rom