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

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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  • raghavan

    Shit .. All chinese low-cost mobiles are of under-rated quality. product ( they do only assembly) cost is 1$(ref) and they sell for 10$(ref) to become rich and try to fool poor african people ….

    • PlsGetReal

      Typical green-eyed Indian..

  • Oluwaferanmi Esan

    tecno mobile is a very useless smartphone, their products must always develop a fault at any point in time

  • Steve Pete

    I love my Tecno Phantom Z mini, I accidentally broke my LCD and I am unable to get it fixed because there are no spare parts here in Kenya. Company oversees who have the spare part cannot ship it as a single item. Please any advice???

  • nicomolo

    I’ve used many mobile phone brands including Tecno but I still prefer the top five namely Samsung, iPhone, LG, Xperia and Lumia (Nokia) which are still the best, especially LG… any other brands outside the top five especially Tecno is rubbish (being dumped in Africa) at a fee!

  • nicomolo

    Cheap is expensive!

  • Wilson

    Nice write up, Tecno Mobile have come along way to get to this point from being the rejected fake cheap china phones to high class smart phones

    You can read up the evolution of china phones in Nigeria here very interesting

  • wow! I really loved reading this,I myself am among the people that hope tecno can be seen equal as the Giants like samsung and apple.

  • JujuEars

    This is some pretty cool story sha… Beautiful vision. Awesome Outcome. Kudos!

  • Michael V, Gbar

    It is very good that the mobile Technologies have a competition that’s Will help our today’s World to improved in human legacy’s, some country in the World have been very expensive in making Technology not affordable to the today Generation ,but Will 80% appreciation go to Chain and others Country around the World who have made it happy for a last 89% of the world on mobile Technologies. Thanks for ur effort.

  • 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.

    • don’t be so stingy…that statement is accurate you just need to accept the reality of it in fact,you might also benefit from it if you try to understand it

    • J. Trevor

      You really must have your brain upside down hence you can’t reason properly! How could that statement meant their products ‘have failed somewhere else’?
      The man is simply saying that if you failed in Africa with so much resources then you can’t hope to succeed anywhere else!

  • Technophone is the best phone for Africa because it is avoidable for rich and poor. From 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.

  • 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 [email protected]

    • 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 can i get them at good price?KENYA

  • Gbadamosi HAkeem. O

    What is the name of the latest tecno now


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

    • Not exactly the world or Nigeria alone, more accurate would be most of Africa but its very much in perspective that their efforts are making a gigantic impact and we are yet to see the more from them

  • ZAF


  • 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.

    • Calm Phidi

      would you be so kind enough to want to inform me on how i can reach top management of Techno Mobile and sell one or two ideas on how their products may see a better tomorrow???

  • 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?


    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

  • if no be tecno no others phone.

  • christo

    I AM not finding the model of my tecno phone?

    • 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

      • J. Trevor

        You are no doubt one of the importers of fake chinese handsets into the country whom Tecno’s presence has now driven out of business with their good quality products and repair outlets..All genuine Tecno handset users have always been raving about their good quality handsets, stunning screen displays and regular updates and firmware.Actually someone just told about new support discoveries he found out on their website.

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