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Tech companies target the middle class with latest mobile devices

Microsoft ambassador Esther Wangare at the launch of Lumia 930 and Lumia 630 on August 5. The company is among top tech firms eyeing Kenya. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA
Microsoft ambassador Esther Wangare at the launch of Lumia 930 and Lumia 630 on August 5. The company is among top tech firms eyeing Kenya. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA 

With an eye on Kenya’s growing middle income consumers, smartphone manufacturers have been unveiling devices in the local market only days after similar launches in Western capitals, signifying Kenya (and Africa’s) growing stature as a growth market for the global firms.

French smartphone manufacturer Wiko Mobile made its debut in the Kenyan market in November with a range of basic and smartphones.

A fortnight ago, Microsoft’s first Lumia, stripped off the traditional Nokia label, was launched into the Kenyan market.

The entry of Wiko Mobile last month set the stage for a market share battle in 2015.

The company is seeking to market its brands in countries where inroads have already been made by Chinese manufacturers such as Huawei and ZTE, to bring down the price of smartphones as it increases its footprint in a competitive sector already dominated by established players like Samsung and Nokia.

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Communications Authority of Kenya’s latest data shows that mobile phone subscriptions stood at 32.2 million, a figure that grew by almost 450,000 compared to the first quarter of the year. The mobile device makers’ line-up for the Kenyan market indicates increased uptake of their products locally.

Kenya was this year ranked the second most preferred investment destination in Africa for corporations seeking to set up shop.

Kenya’s GDP per capita stands at Sh116,037 ($1,246), slightly above the $1,045 threshold set by the World Bank as a marker for lower middle-income economies.

“Mobile phone consumption in Kenya is very rich scaled by the growing economy of the country,” said John Mutwiri, the Wiko country manager in an earlier interview.

Technology is not only about nifty gadgets, but also a lifestyle statement. Each year, mobile phone manufacturers come up with devices that will appeal to the consumer not just for their functionality but also for the statement they make.

The year also saw the wearable devices become part of the trend as Samsung, which suffered a decline in its sales developed the ‘gear’ to give the extra edge to its products.

According to a Reuters Rival Apple is expected to launch its own device this year while LG Electronics announced its new G Watch R smartwatch featuring a circular plastic OLED screen, a stainless steel frame and a leather strap.

Nokia has been struggling as competition from Samsung, Tecno, Apple and Huawei chewed into the market share it once dominated.

Chinese telco ZTE early this year unveiled a variety of smartphones that include the Nubian mini, ZTE bladeL2, and blade c2 among others.

TECNO, which is also a Chinese mobile phone maker, has made notable gains in the local market coming up with smartphones brands to take on rivals Samsung, LG and Nokia.

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