With more than 2 million people living in the country’s capital Lusaka, Zambians’ love affair with gadgets looks set to be long lasting.A new survey reveals that sales of information and communications devices remain strong amid a slowing economy due falling copper prices and recently concluded general elections.According to the 2016 retail survey published few days ago, sales of such devices are estimated to have grown at an annual rate of 32 percent in September, the second-highest rate so far this year after April sales.The October estimate is even higher than already strong sales growth of 38 percent seen in September and surpasses the 31.4 percent rate reported for the same period in 2015.The strong sales estimate comes on the back of sluggish retail and domestic consumption, which traditionally makes up the biggest component of Zambia’s gross domestic product. Overall retail sales, however, have risen at a much slower pace than gadget sales. Overall retail stood at 13.4 percent in August and is expected to have risen to 14.8 percent in September.A Zambian economic expert I sought views from, attributed the device sales forecast to middle and upper class consumers, who were consistently purchasing new gadgets, such as cell phones, tablets and accessories.She said the purchasing power of this consumer segment, though lower than last year, enabled them to continue spending. The stability and strengthening of the Kwacha also helped, making the imported devices relatively cheap.
Data available to me also show that the Kwacha appreciated in October against the US dollar throughout the month.Meanwhile, it turns out that low-class consumers played a role in the trend as well.A report published in August after election backs the study’s results, predicting that 30 percent of people with mobile phones in Zambia will have a smartphone this year and that that proportion will surpass 40 percent by 2017.Zambia will participate in the global surge over the next few years, thanks to the popularity of low end smartphones across the country, which will push the number of active smartphone users to around 8 million almost half the population by end of 2017.Another study, conducted by a Lusaka based research firm has found that Zambian customers tend to replace smartphones frequently, helping mobile manufacturers stay at the top of their game.Some 67 percent of the respondents said they would change phones within the first two years if they saw another model that they wanted more, and 23 percent said they would change phones to get with the times.The survey reveals that retailers are optimistic about sales during the last three months of 2016, as demand starts to climb ahead of the christmas festivities. It will be the time for most Zambians to receive annual salary package and holiday bonus as well, increasing their purchasing power.The survey estimates that Lusaka saw the highest retail sales growth rate in September with 37.1 percent on an annual basis.On the other hand, Ndola and Kitwe are listed as the towns with the gloomiest sales estimates for October because consumer confidence in those two towns suffered a setback from falling copper prices and exports and that affected their purchasing power.