Microsoft and Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei announced this week that the firms will launch a Windows Phone-powered smartphone in seven African countries this month. The release is the first of many for the continent, Microsoft says, and other Windows Phone partners such as HTC, Nokia, and Samsung will be launching handsets there soon as well.
“In Africa today, smartphones account for only about 10 percent of total phones in the market,” Microsoft Corporate Vice President Ali Faramawy noted in a post to the Microsoft on the Issues – Africa blog. “As a first step toward driving the adoption of smart devices, Microsoft and Huawei today introduced the Huawei 4Afrika phone, a full-functionality Windows Phone 8 device preloaded with select applications designed for Africa, by Africans. The Huawei 4Afrika phone, which is the first in what will be a series of ‘4Afrika’ smart devices, will be targeted toward university students, developers, and first-time smartphone users to ensure they have affordable access to best-in-class technology, so they can access the information and tools they need to be active global citizens.”
Priced at just $150, the Huawei 4Afrika is designed to be affordable for students, small businesses, developers, and first-time smartphone owners, Microsoft says. Debuting in Angola, Egypt, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, and South Africa this month, the device comes in four colors (blue, red, black, and white), features a dual-core 1.2GHz Snapdragon processor, a 4" display running at 480 x 800, front and rear-facing cameras, and 4GB of internal storage. Impressively, the 10mm-thick 4Afrika delivers a reported 420 hours—over two weeks—of standby time, thanks to unnamed “built-in power-saving technology.”
Microsoft notes that the Huawei 4Afrika also ships with “custom apps created by African developers for African consumers and feature a market-specific store within the larger Windows Phone Store for downloading locally relevant apps and content.”
So why Africa? It’s arguably one of the largest untapped markets in the world, with a population of over 1 billion. Africa currently has almost 450 million cell phone users, but as Mr. Faramawy notes, only 10 percent of those devices are smartphones. GSM Association expects that most consumers in Africa will have smartphones by 2017.
Microsoft also announced its Microsoft 4Afrika Initiative, which aims to “empower African youth, entrepreneurs, developers, and business and civic leaders to turn great ideas into a reality that can help their community, their country, the continent, and beyond.” The initiative hopes to place tens of millions of smart devices in the hands of African youths and bring 1 million small and midsized businesses (SMBs) online there by 2016.