The General Manager, HMD Global: West, East and Central Africa, Mr Joseph Umunakwe, speaks on the evolution of the mobile technology space in Nigeria
How would you describe the mobile technology space in Nigeria as of today?
Mobile technology has grown rapidly in Nigeria, contributing to increased connectivity. One would not believe that it was only in 2001 that the country saw the introduction of its first GSM mobile phone.
I believe mobile technology, and as a result, the industry, enhances the lives of Nigerian people. We can see this in the proliferation of online businesses leveraging mobile for customer acquisition and other fulfillment.
There is no gainsaying the benefits for lower income or vulnerable groups who are now included in the formal financial system, with access to education and healthcare because they have a mobile phone. These functions became even more of a requirement in 2020, with the attendant market challenges that sprung from restrictions on global trade due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, despite these setbacks in the supply chain in 2020, the mobile technology space today is recovering really well; volumes are picking up. For example, total smartphone shipment into Nigeria increased by 13.7 per cent in Q3 of 2020 according to data provided by the International Data Corporation.
We are seeing increased use of feature phones and low-budget devices, which may be a result of the economic effects of the pandemic and the impact on household income – these entry-level and mid-range devices provide affordable connectivity for customers.
What’s your projection for the mobile technology space in the country?
It will increase the use for mobile technology and enhance individual and corporate productivity. The speed of connectivity that comes with 5G will have a notable impact on practically everything – from lifestyle and healthcare to finance and business models.
As mobile technology adoption becomes ubiquitous, manufacturers would have to compromise on pricing while offering quality devices. Customers want more for less i.e. devices which keep them connected and up-to-date with the latest technology without biting into their pockets.
High inflation rates mean living becomes more expensive for the average person. As a result, affordable technology would become attractive from a price standpoint.
Entry and mid-range phones will therefore thrive. We are well prepared to meet these challenges and offer our fans the quality and affordability they desire.
The 2020 figures from the International Data Corporation revealed that the COVID-19 pandemic caused a decline in feature phones and smartphone shipments. How did this affect your company and how has it fared since the pandemic broke out?
It was a challenging year, but we are proud of the HMD Global team who worked together to get through it. We are stronger now than we ever were and despite the challenges, we recorded great achievements.
Although there was a sharp decline in shipments globally, we were ranked as the worldwide feature phone leader by the International Data Corporation in Q2 of 2020.
This indicates to us that many people rely on a Nokia device to stay connected. With the current pandemic and resultant restrictions, we expect that more and more people will continue to rely on their Nokia phones to stay close to what really matters to them.
The year also saw significant investment from our partners into our business. Our partners, this includes Google, Qualcomm and Nokia, invested $230m in August 2020, which is a testament of their trust in the success of our business.
In recent times, privacy/data security has been an issue for mobile users. What can you say about this and how is HMD Global ensuring smartphone security with Nokia phones?
This is a challenge the global technology industry is facing. Cyber security threats are the bane of an ever-increasing digital world. As a result, safety and security are more of a concern for mobile users – they want devices they can trust to provide the protection and privacy required.
At HMD Global – The home of Nokia phones, we take security very seriously. We are committed to delivering pure, secure and up to date android experience on our range of Nokia smartphones.
Feature phones have remained a major part of Nigeria’s mobile phone ecosystem. Are there plans by HMD Global to increase mobile penetration by bringing more ‘smart’ feature phones to the country?
It is great you mentioned that. We are the worldwide feature phone leader. We have great experience in providing feature phones that help people stay connected and we’ve remained innovative in this space. The release of our Nokia 6300 4G is a pointer to the statement.
It is a smart feature phone that offers the latest services from Google such as Maps and Assistant, alongside all the quality and reliability you would expect from a Nokia phone. And of course, it supports WhatsApp – this important messaging app is ubiquitous and so important to our fans.
According to Statista, the number of smartphone users in Nigeria is forecast to grow to more than 140 million by 2025. How is your company positioning itself for this growth, looking at the competition in the market?
We continue to make our mark in delivering the very best experiences to our fans around the world. We believe mobile technology can enhance the lives of people around the world, so we put our customers at the heart of everything we do.
As such, we have a commitment to provide insight-based and innovative devices, leveraging our Finnish heritage of quality hardware, which our fans have come to love and trust across our region.
As such, we will be delivering our bespoke proposition for the Nigerian customer with our super successful C range.
As the year 2021 progresses, what are the things businesses like yours want to see the government do to support the growth of the mobile technology space in the country?
As with every industry, the right policies and favourable business environment are key contributors to growth. The mobile technology space is not different. The spate of technological innovation can leave anyone swooning and gasping for breath.
I believe the government continues to do the best they can, considering the economic circumstances, the rate of advancement, as well as the information available to them.
The challenge will be for all parties to make partnership the norm. No single sector has the monopoly of ideas and none can grow in isolation. It is therefore imperative to foster public-private partnerships as a working model.
We should have a platform for active dialogue and participation of all parties to ensure sector development, as well as enhanced living standards for all.