China smartphone maker Xiaomi eyes first Kenya store in expansion plans


A Xiaomi mobile phone. PHOTO | AFP

Smartphone maker Xiaomi is set to open its first Nairobi office this year amid a plan to counter the dominance of Chinese rivals including Transsion Holdings, the manufacturer of the popular Tecno, Infinix and Itel brands.

The move comes as Xiaomi sets up an Africa department that focuses on markets including Kenya, following growth in its homegrown Chinese market.

Xiaomi chief executive Jun Lei disclosed details of the new strategy in a staff memo seen by the Business Daily.

Mr Lei said Wang Lingming, the group’s former vice president for the international division, would manage the new department.

Analysts said the launch of an African department by Xiaomi shows the company is keen to implement a low-cost strategy by eliminating brokers to increase earnings as it rolls out its expansion strategy in the continent.

Xiaomi had earlier indicated that its first Kenya office would be in place by March.

The firm surpassed US phone giant Apple as the leading smartphone maker in China during the second quarter of last year, according to American research firm Canalys.

The company entered the African market space through Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya.

The Business Daily had not obtained additional details from the Chinese phone maker’s global office on the planned location of its first physical store by the press time. Currently, Xiaomi uses vendors including Jumia and to ship its brands into Kenya.

device markets

China’s largest smartphone makers have recently intensified their scramble for the Kenyan mobile phone space, eager for a slice of one of the fastest growing device markets in the region.

Huge demand for entry-level and mid-range smartphones, which are pocket-friendly in a market where feature phones are still widely used, has attracted major players from the Asian country.

Last year, another Chinese electronics company, Oppo, became the latest to step up marketing of its products in the country after unveiling its latest device in Kenya.

The company officially set up shop with an eye on the local and African market expansion following its growth in China and India.