Late in February 2020, Apple announced an opening for the role of country leader in Nigeria to oversee sales and business development. When eventually taken, this will be the next interest in an African country-based official after South Africa. But for now, there are no official stores on the continent, only authorised reseller stores.
Based on the premise of inclusiveness, Apple claims to have built a reputation for having the highest percentage of blacks in its employee base in the US compared to other global tech giants. Though it boasts a 9% black inclusion, critics say this is not inclusive because they are mainly retail staff with only a few occupying leadership positions.
If speculations are something to go by on the need for a Nigerian executive, this suggests Nigeria is a major market for the less-expensive iPhones planned to be mass-produced in early March, while further stating that the devices will be relatively affordable for Nigerians.
However, considering Apple's products are high-end, expensive devices, which apparently are not for all markets, this doesn't seem feasible. The prices of the said low-cost phones as proposed by Apple in its plan to address a wider market are suspected to range between $399 (₦145,635) and $449 (₦163,885) – prices of previous flagship phones. These are not cheap when compared to Android rivals in some markets.
Speaking of markets, the Nigerian smartphone market is highly dominated by Tecno, Infinix, Samsung, Huawei, and itel phones for obvious reasons – Android devices with varying prices for different consumers.
Meanwhile, a mobile vendor market share report by StatCounter reveals that sales of Apple devices stand at about 7.28% in Nigeria as of February 2020. Comparing this to Tecno’s 25.34% shows that these devices are selective, and Apple clearly has its niche.
Possible setback for Apple’s interest in Nigeria
When multinationals want to expand their companies abroad, and especially when it is going to involve a physical presence aside creating a representation hinged on technology, a country manager -- either an expat or a local -- has to be put in place. But this has to be done right and for the right reasons.
For instance, when Apple decided to appoint a country manager for India, the decision was based on the expectation that more Indians were moving into the middle class. This, according to the tech giant, looked good on the market for new ranges of iPhones, iPads, and MacBooks. Incidentally, a weak currency happened to be a major factor which previously held the firm back from India before it finally decided to give it a shot in 2018.
But in the third quarter of 2019, Apple's sales in India reportedly grew after it “pulled its socks up and started focusing on the Indian market with special pricing, promotions and e-commerce push.”
If similar conditions apply to Nigeria, it appears Apple's outlook on the Nigeria market seems quite ambitious. While considering the national minimum wage which has remained unchanged and the country’s somewhat weak currency, Nigeria may not be ready for sales growth for these niche-based products even though the smartphone market is growing.
Barring these lapses, there's hope that this does not remain the case for long. The country leader position requires the selected individual to “focus on crafting and executing the strategy for Apple products and services across our three routes to market – enterprise, consumer and carrier ...to grow Apple’s business across all the lines.”
In any case, if this is a means to increase Apple’s focus in Africa, the decision will be justified only when the move translates to improved sales.
However, time will tell.