East Africa PC Market Declines but Education Projects Point to a Brighter Year Ahead

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PC shipments to East Africa (Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and Ethiopia) totaled 657,472 units in 2014, according to preliminary results for the year from global market intelligence firm International Data Corporation. This represents a year-on-year decline of 10.8% from the 736,869 units recorded in 2013, with the withdrawal of cheap mini notebooks from the market responsible for much of the downturn.

“While most market players experienced growing business across East Africa in 2014, the decision to end production of cheap mini notebooks pushed the overall numbers down,” says James Mutua, a research analyst at IDC East Africa. “Compounding the departure of these popular devices was the fact that no obvious replacement product was immediately available. There is a clear need for a product that occupies the entry-level segment of the market, and we are yet to see whether Chromebooks or any other low-priced laptops will successfully take on the mantle vacated by the mini notebook form factor.”

The commercial segment of the East African market experienced a 9.3% downturn in purchases year on year, with shipments of portable PCs suffering a huge decline as a result of weak demand from small and medium-sized businesses. Notebook shipments were also hit by the delay or postponement of various education projects by the respective country governments. However, shipments of desktop PCs to the commercial segment recorded positive growth in 2014 as enterprises sought to upgrade their old PCs as a result of Microsoft terminating support for Windows XP during the first half of the year.

The picture was equally as gloomy in the consumer segment, where overall shipments slowed 12.5% year on year. Growth in this segment’s traditional desktop space flattened, while demand for portable PCs declined as a result of stiff competition from cheap tablet devices. Within the consumer desktop segment, IDC expects all-in-one and small-form-factor desktop PCs to begin gaining considerable traction over the coming years. On a country level, Ethiopia posted strong overall year-on-year growth of 20.6% in 2014. This performance represented the high point in the region, with Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda all posting double-digit declines of 15.3%, 19.7%, and 12.1%, respectively.

The year ahead looks more promising for the East Africa PC market, with IDC expecting shipments to be boosted by various government-backed initiatives that are set to take place across the region during 2015. These include Kenya’s One Laptop Per Child project, which ultimately aims to deliver 1.2 million notebooks to grade-one pupils and is anticipated to take off in second half of the year. In Tanzania, a pilot initiative to supply university students with laptops via the Higher Education StudentsLoans Board is also expected to be revived in 2015. Meanwhile, in Ethiopia, various government Public Procurement and Property Disposal Service (PPPDS) tenders are expected to continue in 2015.