Why during Africa’s digital revolution small innovations can make a big impact

By Arif Chowdhury, Group Vice President, TRANSSION

As greater technological links are created, both within Africa’s many countries, and with countries outside the continent, multiple benefits are being seen in the fields of commerce, culture and education – forming the basis for societal and economic development. Yet, smaller micro-innovations are making a big impact to the daily lives of many Africans.

Africa’s vast population of more than a billion people presents a wealth of opportunity for companies, but success is only possible through truly understanding the diverse demands of consumers, which vary between the continent’s many countries and regions.

The increased penetration of mobile - both feature and smartphones – has seen more people than ever across Africa own mobile devices. As such, it has never been more important to understanding the practical demands that consumers, many owning a phone for the first time, have.

Consumers have more choice than ever before and whether you’re a large incumbent or a new entrant to the market, if your product does not meet their needs they will find one that will.

Focussing on Africa since 2008, TRANSSION has made local understanding a key priority, not only listening to consumers, but also our many partners in the region, ranging from one-man bands to large multinationals. This has been the key component of the firm growing to a 38 per cent market share in the region last year (International Data Corporation 2016).

The message received is clear – consumers want a phone that is accessible and can be used in a way which is simple, efficient and enjoyable – driven by innovative technology and smart product design. Through understanding this intimately, it has been possible to develop a number of micro-innovations across our products to meet these demands.

A prime example is the introduction of a dual-SIM-card phone, an innovation which reflects how African users often carry different SIM cards and swap them regularly as call rates between different telecom networks are generally more expensive than intra-network calls. This makes calls cheaper, meaning users can have more conversations, and ultimately derive greater functionality from their mobile. To date, more than 200 million dual-SIM-card phones have been sold by TRANSSION.

Africa is a young continent, with the median age less than 20. This has clear implications for the sector, with firms who are able to cater to younger consumers more likely to retain them in later years. For younger consumers, it is also important their phone is equipped to make the most of content sharing, particularly across social media. As such, we incorporated the latest pixel technology into the TECNO Camon CX model, allowing consumers to take brighter, clearer and faster selfies.

A long battery life is also an important demand for African consumers, many of whom don’t have constant access to electricity supplies and may need to wait in between charges, travelling to gain access.

These are just a few examples of practical micro-innovations driven by an insight of consumer demand. With the competition for Africa’s huge market set to intensify in the coming years, it will become increasingly important for firms to continue to compete on who knows the consumer best and who can research and innovate to bring these developments to market fastest.

The technological revolution sweeping Africa will continue to gather pace, bringing economic and societal developments. Yet for those firms in the mobile sector, continuing to make consumer-driven innovations, could be just as important.  

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