Cost of phone repair in Africa to reach $700m

Posted on October 10, 2013 08:56 am

Technological changes have motivated consumers to buy the latest 4G smart phones and as I wrote few days ago about its benefits , the new technology has also created a repair and diagnostic industry that employs hundreds of thousands of people in sub Saharan Africa who repair phones although more than 40% of African mobile phone consumers prefer to buy new phones instead of repairing old ones. This industry primarily repairs and maintains cell phones and new research shows that it is a thriving business in Africa outback and boondocks. When it comes to the posh class seeking such services, most troop to mobile firms dealers for repairs of such gadgets such as Galaxy Tab, iPads etc. In South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana, Uganda and Tanzania the repairs involve screen repair, water damage repair, battery replacement, cosmetic damage repair as well as other functional repairs and the industry activities involve repairing cell phones, repairing smartphones, repairing tablets, repairing cell phones, repairing smartphones and repairing tablets among others. With sales overtaking those of traditional feature phones for the first time this year, smartphones have become the communication, payment and information device of choice for consumers and enterprises alike in Africa just like other parts of the world. However, despite an increase in smartphone penetration, the mobile market remains a difficult place for many operators in Africa with more than half of them making losses.

A new research has revealed that Africa phone and gadgets repair and diagnostic industry is experiencing a strong growth. One research shows that Industry revenue are expected to rise at an average annual rate of 18%, with 27% growth anticipated from 2013 to 2014, to total $700m. Much of this growth is coming from damage-prone smartphones with South Africa, Angola, Kenya and Nigeria accounting for half the market share. The research also indicated that as more Africans afford smartphones, the repair and diagnostic industry will plateau and then experience revenue fall as more consumers purchase smart phones rather than repairing their existing ones. As noted few weeks ago about Africa mobile users are buying Internet-enabled smartphones that are more costly than standard phones and are opting to have their gadgets repaired instead of replacing them and that is why manufacturers like LG and Samsung have setting up repair and diagnostic repair centers in various countries. As the use of mobile Internet continues to rise, increased connectivity and heightened competition has forced operators to drive down prices and look for revenue elsewhere. Research in East Africa has shown that mobile operators like MTN Uganda, Safaricom in Kenya and Vodacom in Tanzania and retailers are spending millions of dollars on mobile phone fault diagnostics and repair. In East Africa alone approximately 600,000 mobile phones are reported every month which accounts for 1% of all mobile phones in use across the region. That figure excludes Tablets like iPads and Android powered Galaxy Tab easily the best selling Tablet in the region. For mobile retailers and operators this results is an unwelcome cost and loss of revenue from usage especially when the phone is sent back to the network operator’s repair center to be fixed.

Interestingly research shows that mobile faults differ depending on the three main regions that make up sub Saharan Africa. In East and Southern African countries battery-related problems and connectivity issues are the most reported challenges while in the western African region apps and software related problems are the most reported. In one case reported at a Vodacom shop in Durban South Africa a customer complained that his iPhone 5 Battery drained too quickly compared to his previous Nokia N900 which clearly indicate that most consumers expect performance of smartphones to be same as those ancient standard phones. Whilst his battery on Nokia N900 could easily carry the device for three days without recharging, these phones did not even have half as many features like globally popular Samsung Galaxy S4 that I reviewed recent or even iPhone 5. As many consumers make the switch to the latest devices in Africa, the pressure on mobile operators and retailers is expected to grow threefold in the next three years.Research conducted in South Africa earlier this year revealed that around half of mobile phone and tablets faults were as a result of huge expectation while more than 20% were as result of misuse problems.

The growing number Internet enabled devices demands that mobile operators replace ancient approaches to repair that cannot adequately cope with the rising number of reported faults. In store and remote diagnostics and repair that have been available in automotive industry for ages can as well be used by network operators and time has come for mobile operators to start using such technologies to their advantage and if possible in all their customer care offices. In Automotive industry technology has enabled car dealers to identify and fix a myriad of problems – from the basic software error to driving applications failure all from the comfort of an in-store PC.I have taken my ride to such places a couple of times and there is no way I can compare that with the rudimentary mechanics that used to fix my mom Ford Zephyr 6 while I was still a boy. I vividly recall one day we waited in the garage for five hours yet we had to drive to my mom village of Wagga Wagga the same day. It really sucks to think that mobile network operators are still using obsolete channels to solve petty problems. Mobile operators in Africa can help save $700 million being spent every year by consumers, time wasted and resources lost when devices are out of service. At the same time improve customer service by eliminating reactiveness and replacing it with proactive solutions through implementation and use of technology.

Contador Harrison