Kenya is awash with fake mobile phones. New research conducted between May 2017 and May 2018 reveals a proliferation of substandard phones in the country.
The firm behind the study, Dublin based digital technology researcher Startcounter, released data showing that “unknown” handsets stand at 24.6 per cent, overtaking major brands such as Nokia and Samsung which ruled the market about a decade ago.
By the word “unknown” the firm meant the handsets may bear the name of popular brands such as Samsung yet they are fakes.
Alternatively, they may carry names of little known phoney brands.
According to the Communications Authority of Kenya’s (CA) most recent report, the mobile telephony sub-sector registered substantial growth in the second quarter of the financial year 2017/18.
The number of active mobile subscriptions rose from 41 million in the first quarter to 42.8 million in the second, marking a 4.4 per cent growth over the period. This means that the 24.6 per cent unknown handsets represents 10.5 million fake phones currently in the market.
The unknown brands rule the local market, beating popular makes such as Tecno and Samsung which command 19.4 and 15.3 per cent respectively, Startcounter reports.
Other top selling brands in Kenya also include Infinix (11.2 per cent), Huawei (7.2 per cent), and Vodafone ( four per cent).
This contrasts sharply with the trend in 2010 whenNokia’s market share was a whopping 80.4 per cent.
This significant drop in Nokia’s market share is partly attributed to the mushrooming fake brands in the local market.
The canibalisation of Nokia has been so severe that today its presence in Kenya is insignificant.
Seven years ago, the brand’s dominance was followed by Samsung (9.6 per cent), Sony Ericson (5.7 per cent), Motorola (1.1 per cent), Apple (1.4 per cent), LG (0.3 per cent), T-Mobile (0.02 per cent), Sony (0.03 per cent), HTC (0.01 per cent), and Goggle (0.01 per cent).
No data was available for fake phones in 2010, meaning their impact was minimal.
The Anti-Counterfeit Agency (ACA) has over the years made feeble attempts to rein in mobile handset counterfeiters. For instance, in 2015 ACA seized about Sh60 million worth of fake mobile phones within Nairobi’s CBD alone, highlighting the massive magnitude of counterfeit phones in the market.
Last year, ACA’s crackdown on vendors nabbed 5,000 fake phones in Mombasa County alone.
In 2016, police attached to the agency arrested four suspects and seized counterfeit Samsung mobile phones worth Sh25 million in Nairobi County.
The swoop, carried out in collaboration with Samsung Kenya, unveiled fake mobile gadgets branded Samsung.
“Users are denied the assurance of using a genuine product due to reduced confidence and compromised user experience.
“We have been and will continue to be at the forefront of the fight against counterfeits,” said the then Samsung East Africa Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Robert Ngeru.
“Our partnership with anti-corruption authorities is making an impact on the illicit trade, clearly demonstrated by the massive seizure.”
However, Kenya is not the only country grappling with the fake phones menace.
The problem is worse in neighbouring countries.
In Uganda, counterfeit phones account for 35 per cent of the market share compared to Tecno (23.7 per cent), Samsung (13.7 per cent), Huawei (5.1 per cent), Itel (4.5 per cent) and Nokia (4.4 per cent).
In Tanzania, fakes make up 34.7 per cent of market share, with Tecno at (29.3 per cent), Samsung (14.2 per cent), Huawei (4.8 per cent), Nokia (4.72 per cent), and Itel (3.3 per cent).
The scenario is different in Rwanda where Tecno — at 33.7 per cent — has overtaken the unknowns which stand at (27.9 per cent), Samsung (20.4 per cent), Nokia (2.7 per cent), Apple (2.5 per cent), and Huawei (2.3 per cent), the Startcounter report shows.
Overall, in Africa Samsung controls 29.6 per cent of the market overtaking the fakes at (17.2 per cent), Huawei (9.1 per cent), Tecno (8.8 per cent), Apple (6.6 per cent), and Infinix (4.9 per cent).
Startcounter tracks engines, browsers and operating systems to collate data and analyse it.
The firm uses the data traffic analysis to collate and provide pertinent information.