It is hard to talk about IT in Africa without touching on mobility. Yet this is mostly defined as handheld devices rather than tablets. Our June research shows that only 55% of Africans surveyed own a tablet device compared to a global average of 71%. This is the lowest level of any continent in the world and compares to 66% of Asians and 69% from the Middle East. These African tablet users also demonstrate the lowest percentage with iPads (46%) and the joint highest number of Android owners (49%) with Asia.
The most prolific tablet users
Tablet penetration is only half the story though. Whilst Africans have the lowest volume of tablets, they are the most prolific users. Our findings reveal that 80% use their tablet daily for work, compared to a global average of 61%. 95% use it daily for personal use compared to a global average of 87%. On top of this, 46% of Africans who don’t own a tablet say they intend to invest in one within the next three months. This is the highest percentage anywhere else in the world and compares to a global average of 31%.
When we asked non-tablet owners who intended to buy a tablet in the next 12 months what operating system they intended to go for, only 21% of Africans said an iPad (the lowest globally), whilst more than twice as many (44%) placed their faith in Google Android. These findings suggest that although Africa may be behind the world in the tablet space - amongst a professional audience at least - this trend will not last long.
Africans have unique opinions
Interestingly, as we’ve discovered with other global research we have run, African opinion diverges from the global average in a number of different ways. Not only does the situation appear to actually be different on this continent, the way Africans view the situation appears to be at odds with the rest of the world too. A picture rapidly emerges of a truly unique emerging hub.
When we asked respondents which features they regarded to be most important when selecting a device Africans came out stronger on ‘brand reputation’, ‘appearance’ and ‘price’ than any other continent in the world. 42% said ‘brand reputation’ was very important, compared to a global average of 25%. 40% said ‘appearance of device’ was very important, compared to a global average of 24%. Whilst 54% said ‘price’ was very important, compared to a global average of 41%.
I was fascinated by this because although an emphasis on the price makes complete sense, an interest in ‘brand reputation’ and ‘appearance’ actually seems to contradict a move away from the iPad. What is more, the African interest in price was not significantly different from the rest of the world, especially when you add together those who rate it ‘very important’ (54% in Africa, 41% globally) and ‘important’ (27% in Africa, 37% globally).This means the African average becomes 81% against a global average of 78%.
The growth of African mobility
The other area where Africans revealed strong trends of their own was when we asked respondents why they think tablets are popular in the market generally. In this question everyone in the world thought ‘Mobility: easy to download content and access it on the move’ to be the biggest draw of tablets. However, more Africans believed this to be the main attraction (84%) than any other continent in the world.
Interestingly, 44% also think ‘Sharing: ideal for showing information to others’ as a main attraction of tablets compared to a global average of 30%. This appears to highlight a different approach to information.
Overall, Africa is renowned for its mobility. It is the country with the highest penetration of mobile phones, it is famous for its innovative use of mobile banking and m-government, but tablets have not caught up yet. On a continent where mobility seems to be of paramount importance it can’t be long before this global trend takes off with a vengeance.
Kathryn Cave is Editor of IDG Connect.
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