Last week, AfriOne launched its mobile phone manufacturing facility in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital. The arrival of a mobile manufacturer is a cheering news for Africa’s largest mobile market without an original equipment manufacturer (OEM).
The company is called AfriOne Limited and backed by venture funding from India’s Contec Global, a security technology company providing automated systems for the authentication of people, objects and documents.
Contec Global was reported to have invested about USD10 million in the manufacturing facility that is more or less Nigeria’s first smartphone manufacturing plant.
However, there are challenges ahead of this promising venture that must be looked into. These four concerns must be critically considered:
- Substandard imports: There is no gainsaying that Nigeria’s mobile market has exploded, perhaps for good. The market is now active with many smartphone brands giving customers expansive choices. However, there are downsides to this positive development. Nigeria is fast becoming a dumping ground for all kinds of devices. Many of them are behind standards across Europe and China, their common country of origin. The spate of these substandard smartphones must be checked by the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON). As a local manufacturer, AfriOne will have to work with standards agencies to ensure it does not become a victim of these cheap imports.
- Government regulations: Nigeria is known for policy flip-flop or a total lack of many needed policies for local manufacturers and entrepreneurs. In this matter, there are concerns about how AfriOne and other willing investors in the smartphone business will benefit from government policies. Various manufacturers were taken to the cleaners after past governments unilaterally introduce or scrap policies without deep consideration for local ventures affected by these policies.
- Essential infrastructure: It is no longer a surprise that manufacturers such as AfriOne will be providing its own power and other infrastructure needed in its value chain. As soon as more competitors come into the scene or economic cycle swing against its fortune, AfriOne might start whining and looking for another market out of Nigeria. Before it degenerates to this level, AfriOne will benefit more should Nigeria’s government carve out a serious strategy to fix critical infrastructure for these kinds of businesses.
- Manpower: Many Nigerians would have been more knowledgeable about mobile technology should more manufacturers coming into the scene. In the absence of mobile plants, the knowledge bank has been focused on retail, marketing and sketchy knowledge on repairs and after sales services. AfriOne will need to scale its training and capacity development in order to grow beyond the norm.