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