Huawei Technologies, China's largest networking equipment manufacturer, planned to double smartphone sales in Nigeria this year as it sought to boost its global market share, company officials said on Friday.
Huawei released its Ascend P6 smartphone, said to be the "world's slimmest phone", in Lagos, the commercial capital of Africa's biggest cellphone market, on September 6.
It forecast it would sell 200 000 smartphones in the country by year-end, said Tony Liang, the managing director of the company's consumer business group for west Africa.
That is twice the number it sold last year.
"With Nigeria developing economically, smartphone use will boom over the next five years," he said. More than 90 percent of the phones used in the country now were feature phones, used mainly for voice calls and text messages, leaving room for smartphone growth, he said.
Huawei seeks to become one of the top three smartphone vendors by 2018.
Nigeria had 117 million cellular subscribers as of June, according to the Nigerian Communications Commission, for a population of more than 160 million. With many subscribers acquiring more than one line, the numbers will grow to more than 200 million subscriptions in 2017, London-based research company Informa Telecoms & Media estimates.
While Huawei was a relatively late entrant in the Nigerian smartphone market, it had the advantage of being a network provider to most cellular operators, said Yolanda Zhang, the marketing director of the consumer business in west Africa.
"We already partner with them for their networks," Zhang said. "That makes it easier for us than for the others to partner with them" for smartphone handsets.
Its competitors include BlackBerry, Nokia, HTC, Tecno Telecom, Samsung Electronics and Apple.
MTN's Nigerian unit, Nigeria's own Globacom, Bharti Airtel and Emirates Telecommunications all offer subsidised or free smartphones and data plans.
Huawei was helping deploy a fibre backbone to connect government departments in Abuja by the middle of next year and was in talks to extend it across the country to enable cheaper data services, said Kevin Li, the public relations manager for west Africa. - Bloomberg