Despite the slump in global supply chain and economic growth as a result of the impact of COVID-19 pandemic, the importation of mobile phones from China by Nigerian dealers in 2020 grew by 23.44 percent or 3.53 million year-on-year.
Trade statistics obtained from China’s customs showed that Nigerian gadget vendors imported 18.56 million pieces of all categories of mobile phones from January to December 2020 compared to 15.04 million mobile phones imported in the same period in 2019.
The data showed that the investment of Nigerian phone vendors in mobile phone importation grew by four percent from $161.22million from January to December in 2019 to $167.95 million in the corresponding period in 2020.
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A monthly breakdown of the data showed that in January last year, 2.48 million mobile phones valued at $2.40 million were imported compared with 270,206 devices valued at $6.53 million in the corresponding period in 2019.
This presented 817.8 per cent increase in the number of phones imported into the country.
In February, the volume of mobile phones imported into the country increased by 3,720 percent to 1.32 million at $11.6 million in 2020 from 34,548 devices valued at $456,975 in 2019.
Also in March, the volume of imported mobile phones from China grew by 703.6 per cent to 726,046 at $9.91 million in 2020 from 90,350 devices worth $2.11 million in 2019.
In April 2020 when the lockdown was announced in Abuja, Lagos, and Ogun states and schools across the country were shut, the volume of imported mobile phones from China surpassed 2019 figures.
The data indicated that 1.47 million mobile phones valued at $9.13 million were imported in April 2020 compared to 249,253 devices worth $6.45 million in the same period in 2019, recording 489.8 percent increase in volume.
In May last year, vendors ordered 843,769 mobile phones valued at $7.1 million as against 536,805 devices worth $6.38 million in the same month in 2019, recording an over 57.2 percent rise in volume.
In June 2020, vendors imported 954,113 mobile phones worth $6.71 million as against 629,484 devices worth $7.75 million in the same month in 2019, recording over a 60.5 percent rise in volume.
The industry saw a 39.6 percent increase in mobile phone import volume from 1.44 million in July 2019 at $15.11 million to 2.01 million devices in July 2020 at $16.33 million.
In August, imported phones decreased by 9.7 percent as 2.38 million mobile phones worth $22.33 million came into the country in 2019 as against 2.15 million devices valued at $18.24 million in the same month in 2020.
In September last year, vendors ordered 1.98 million mobile phones valued at $16.57 million as against 2.24 million phones worth $22.88 million in the same month in 2019, recording over 11.6 percent growth in volume.
Imported volume of phones in October 2020 was 1.04 million with a total value of $10.31 million as against 22.21 million devices worth $22.2 million in October 2019, representing 95 percent reduction in volume.
In November 2020, vendors imported 1.73 million phones worth $18.69 million as against 3.58 million mobile phones worth $32.31 million in the same month in 2019, recording over 51.7 percent decline in volume year-on-year.
The vendors, in December 2020, imported 1.86 million mobile phones valued at $21.97 million as against 1.36 million devices worth $16.7 million in corresponding period in 2019, indicating 36.8 percent increase in volume of imported devices.
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These findings aligned with the report by the International Data Corporation which disclosed that that Nigeria’s smartphone market remained healthy in the third quarter of 2020 as vendors shifted their model portfolios to entry-level and mid-range devices.
The IDC’s mobile phone tracker report almost 3 million units where shipped into the country in Q3 2020, indicating 13.7 per cent quarter-on-quarter growth.
It noted that Transsion’s Tecno, Itel, and Infinix brands dominated smartphone shipments in Q3 2020 with a combined 76.4 per cent share as Chinese brands continue to invest in the country, penetrating the market and gaining a foothold.
Samsung placed second with 7.0 percent share and Xiaomi placed third with 5.3 per cent.
Analysts at IDC noted that feature phones remained resilient as they continue to be the preferred secondary phone in an environment of declining consumer purchasing power and rising unemployment.
A research analyst at IDC, George Mbuthia, said, “In light of the economic hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, vendors continued to ship more affordable devices priced below $200 as they sought to address demand for cheaper models and penetrate consumer segments with lower purchasing power.
“This strategy of offering more devices in the entry-level and mid-range price bands (<$200) ensured a faster market recovery from the weak performance seen in Q2 2020, which was heavily impacted by COVID-19.”