CALL­ING AFRICA

A Chi­nese com­pany, while lit­tle known at home, leads the way in the con­ti­nent’s mo­bile phone mar­ket

Beijing Review - - COVER STORY - By Xia Yuanyuan

If you find your­self in La­gos, the eco­nomic cap­i­tal of Nige­ria, and you’re a gad­get freak, make your way to the Ikeja elec­tronic mar­ket, which is pos­si­bly the largest of its kind in West Africa.

Also known as Com­puter Vil­lage, it is one of the busiest and most pop­u­lar places in La­gos. There, among the myr­iad dif­fer­ent elec­tronic de­vices sold in its count­less al­leys, a mar­ket­ing phe­nom­e­non with a bright blue shopfront rules the roost. Wel­come to TECNO, the Chi­nese brand that in just 10 years of its ex­is­tence has emerged as the fron­trun­ner in Africa’s boom­ing mo­bile phone mar­ket.

In China, few peo­ple have heard of TECNO or its owner, TRANSSION Hold­ings. It doesn’t have a sin­gle store in China and op­er­ates from a low-key head­quar­ters in Shen­zhen in south China’s Guang­dong Prov­ince. But it was one of the first Chi­nese mo­bile phone man­u­fac­tur­ers to ex­plore the African mar­ket and has be­come one of the largest mo­bile phone ven­dors on the con­ti­nent, out­per­form­ing more il­lus­tri­ous brands like Ap­ple, Sam­sung and Huawei.

Peo­ple’s fa­vorite

“TECNO! TECNO! TECNO!”

At 3C HUB, one of the many mo­bile phone stores in the mar­ket, ven­dors tire­lessly call out the brand’s name to draw cus­tomers. TECNO’S su­per high pop­u­lar­ity can be seen from its dis­play stand swamped by cus­tomers.

“This is not the first time I bought a TECNO smart­phone. It is the most cost-ef­fec­tive phone I’ve used,” Vir­ginia Madubuko, a cus­tomer, said.

Es­tab­lished in 2006, TRANSSION is a con­glom­er­ate spe­cial­iz­ing in mo­bile com­mu­ni­ca­tion. It is best known for its sub­brands, in­clud­ing TECNO, itel and In­finix.

In June 2008, the com­pany set up its first Africa of­fice in Nige­ria, tar­get­ing the con­ti­nent’s most pop­u­lous na­tion and de­vel­op­ing its Africa-focused brand mar­ket­ing.

Zhu Zhao­jiang, founder of TRANSSION, made the de­ci­sion to en­ter Africa af­ter trav­el­ing to many African coun­tries and find­ing that African users wanted mo­bile phones made es­pe­cially for their needs.

Ac­cord­ing to the com­pany’s re­search, while the mo­bile phone pen­e­tra­tion rate had reached 60-70 per­cent in China around 2008, it was only 10-20 per­cent in Africa. The con­ti­nent there­fore had a promis­ing mar­ket.

“Our orig­i­nal goal was to pro­duce mo­bile phones at af­ford­able prices with un­com­pro­mised qual­ity, of­fer our African cus­tomers phones de­signed specif­i­cally for them, as well as give the best af­ter-sales ser­vice on the con­ti­nent,” Duan Shengx­iao, Gen­eral Man­ager of TRANSSION’S Nige­ria of­fice, said.

A seller shows a TECNO phone to a cus­tomer in La­gos, Nige­ria, in Oc­to­ber 2018

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