Is there an African Market for Homegrown Hardware?
Typically on Afrinnovator we feature software or software based initiatives. This time around our thinking was turned towards the hardware industry as we were sparked by an article on Inveneo’s ICTWorks. Wayan Vota writes about the dominant laptop brand in Nigeria. It would be very easy to guess that typically it would be some foreign company such as Dell or HP. However, as Wayan notes, the reality is that it is neither of these but a local laptop manufacturer, Zinox.
If you think the answer to, “Who sells the most laptops in Nigeria?” is a big western brand like HP, Dell, or Toshiba, you would be wrong. You may be surprised to learn that the leading laptop sales company is the homegrown, Nigerian compnay Zinox, as IDC confirms:
The Q2 2010 IDC report posted on the company’s web site reveals that Zinox laptops are the fastest growing and best selling Notebooks in the Nigerian market. Zinox is strongest in the laptop market where it leads six other international brands, including HP, Acer, Toshiba, Dell, Lenovo and LG Electronics, with a 53.6% market share and a year-on-year growth of 799 per cent, while its closest competitor, HP, achieved a 23.6 per cent market share.
This is pretty interesting because it shatters common misconceptions about really making it as a local hardware manufacturer in Africa. Wayan notes that Zinox is not the only Nigerian hardware company making waves in that market but there are other players such as Omatek Computers.
Not only are companies such as Omatek setting the pace for hardware manufacturing, they are also setting the pace for hardware innovation in Africa. Omatek manufactured and launched it’s ‘handtop’ the world’s smallest desktop computer (at least at that time).
Zinox is definitely a trendsetter especially dominating a market with such a huge population as Nigeria. It would be great to see more innovation in hardware. In times past a key challenge would have been developing and maintaining system software such as operating systems, however, today with the growth of open source and such ‘main stream’ open software platforms such as Android, that barrier would appear to be much lower. A probably more difficult challenge to surmount could possibly be the availability of highly skilled labour. however, there are top notch African universities churning out hordes of computer science and engineering students every year who are left jobless for lack of formal employment. In this case probably the more interesting of challenges is the funding issue. This is where governments and private equity companies can jump in.
But is there really a market for homegrown hardware, well, Zinox and Omatek are just two examples of a resounding ‘Yes’ to that question. It does take a lot of work, probably more effort than in most other markets, but there’s definitely potential out there. In any case, I’d buy a locally made laptop any day, the only question is the quality of the product, and that’s what customers are after – quality. And that seems to be where Zinox has really hit pay dirt – quality, homegrown products.