Epson: SMEs driving printer sales in East Africa

Japanese electronics manufacturer Epson is expecting growth in demand for printers in East Africa due to a surge in private sector activity. Epson opened its East African headquarters in Nairobi last year after more than two decades of operating in the region through distributors, managed by its South African office.

The company also runs an office in Ethiopia and plans to launch in Tanzania. Epson’s East Africa regional manager Mukesh Bector says the region is a “key focus market” thanks to recent economic growth.

Bector tells How we made it in Africa that the establishment of more small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and government agencies as well as growth in the photography industry, are impacting printer and other office equipment sales in the region.

“People need printers, be it for a home office, small office or for photo enthusiasts. There has been a big demand for printers especially in the SME market and we have actually redesigned how we do things with our inkjet printers to serve this market,” says Bector.

International research firm IDC estimates that 151,000 printers will be sold in Kenya alone this year. By 2015, sales are expected to hit 225,000. In downtown Nairobi, multiple cyber cafés, small photo studios, and printing and photocopying kiosks rely heavily on products like printers, cartridges, copiers, projectors and scanners.

“We do expect volumes to pick up and business to do well. Ethiopia, for instance, is a very vibrant economy and is growing really fast. Banking is one of the sectors that are coming up really fast there and we see that as an opportunity. We see similar potential in the other markets in the region,” notes Bector.

Growing competition

Other global printer manufactures are also intensifying their efforts in East Africa.

“We have a lot of players in the region and lots of new entrants coming in,” says Bector.

Last year Canon set up a subsidiary in Kenya to oversee seven countries in the region. At the launch, Anurag Agrawal, managing director for Canon Middle East, said the subsidiary would broaden the company’s “ability to invest in the African markets”.

“The new office in Kenya is strategically positioned to bring us closer to our customers and partners across the key markets in East Africa, giving us the opportunity to offer them greater support,” said Agrawal.

Other players in the region include US-based Hewlett-Packard (HP); Japanese technology firms Kyocera, Ricoh, Sharp and Panasonic; and South Korea’s Samsung.

To fight off competition companies have been unveiling more affordable, convenient and high quality products that appeal to organisations seeking to keep their printing and business costs down.