The Phone and Allied Products Dealers Association says that it is bullish about the market prospects for ITF Mobile and its members are “ready to embrace” the Made in Nigeria phone unveiled last month by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Mr. Ifeanyi Akubue, PAPDA President tells Technology Times in an exclusive interview that the nation’s leading phone trade group is eagerly awaiting the market debut of ITF Mobile since the official June 9 unveiling by President Buhari at the Aso Villa in Abuja.
“When we heard about that government agency producing a phone, we were so glad and waiting for it to embrace it”, Akubue says while speaking from Ikeja Computer Village, Nigeria’s largest tech market hub located in Lagos, the nation’s commercial capital.
Though ITF Mobile is yet to make a market debut and also yet to be seen at Ikeja Computer Village, the PAPDA leader says the mobile phone trade group is set to promote the locally-made device.
“We have been looking forward to it for a long time, and coming from a government agency, the only thing is that we are still waiting. Since after the pronouncement, we have not heard anything about the mobile phone”, the PAPDA President says of ITF Mobile ahead of its expected market debut.
“We have not heard anything more of the product or the brand up till today”, he says explaining that market anticipation has grown since the President unveiled the phone.
“We are anticipating to see it, to touch it and feel it”, the leader of the phone trade group says adding that, “we would be glad selling a Nigerian mobile phone made by Nigeria.”
ITF Mobile: What’s in the box?
ITF Mobile is an Android phone made by the Electrical/Electronics Technology Department of Industrial Training Fund’s (ITF) Model Skills Training Centre (MSTC) in Abuja, Otunba Niyi Adebayo, Industry, Trade, and Investment Minister says at the unveiling in Abuja.
ITF Mobile is made from components 100% locally sourced in Nigeria from Lagos and Aba, “and is being readied for mass production.” according to Adebayo.
The incoming ITF Mobile will address the gap in the local market for a Made in Nigeria phone to compete in a market dominated by foreign devices and brands, Akubue says.
“To be sincere with you, apart from phones being marketed by Nigerians, Nigeria has never produced a mobile phone. I have not seen one” the PAPDA President tells Technology Times when asked about brands that lay claim to being Made in Nigeria.
PAPDA is ready to throw its full weight behind the government-promoted ITF Mobile, he says noting that the trade group “will go a long way in promoting them and we will go a long way in promoting the Nigerian made mobile phones.”
Akubue explains that “the producers must do consultation with people who know this business to advise on models, shape and applications needed on that phone.”
Mobile phone consumers vary in their needs, taste and preferences with some interested in fashionable phones while “there are people who are more interested in the applications on the phone and those people are more in number today.”
According to him, “any phone that is produced by Nigeria today must be well articulated in all these things so that once it comes, we will give it total support and our Nigerian phone would be more acceptable than the foreign ones.”
According to the PAPDA leader, “as an association, we will push it (ITF Mobile) more. We will push Nigerian phones more than foreign phones if we see one.”
PAPDA: ITF Mobile will benefit from changing consumer trend
A growing number of Nigerian consumers are switching tastes from foreign products to local alternatives and this is noticeable in the fashion and textile businesses, and the same trend can be replicated in the mobile phone market, Akubue says.
“People are wearing Nigerian clothes, sewed by Nigerians and produced by Nigerians. So, with mobile phones, our people will embrace it and we the association will make sure we convince our people, the consumers, and the retailers”, he says, underscoring that this will happen once the quality of the Made in Nigeria phone meets the market standards.
“Before such a phone will be introduced to the market, SON (Standards Organisation of Nigeria) will give approval, and liaising with SON, we will confirm that the quality is okay. We will push it and our people will buy it. I am sure of that. Once the due consultation is made by model, by features and everything about the phone is well articulated.”
With government institutions like ITF making inroads into the mobile phone production space, Akubue says it is time for the Federal Government to come up with incentives to support SMEs in the mobile phone business ecosystem.
With the COVID-19 pandemic that affected economies across the world, including Nigeria, mobile phone dealers in the country have felt the impact of the strain on the local economy, particularly with sourcing foreign exchange for their shipments into the country, according to the PAPDA President.
“What is happening now globally is not what the Nigerian government alone can handle because the economy is dwindling one way or the other. The major problem we have is forex. That’s the major challenge we are having in our business”, he says.
“It can never give you a plan to plan, a time to plan and the atmosphere to know what tomorrow will be because the government cannot determine the price of dollar. Once the Nigerian government can determine the price of dollars, and say this is the price and you can plan knowing that between now and next year, this is what you are going to achieve. But some planning you are planning may be tanked on the road because of the dollar.
“So many companies, so many plans have come in but by the time the exchange rate goes up unannounced, you see the plan will just fall aside.”
According to the PAPDA leader, “most of our members and our major stakeholders in the market, that’s the challenge they are having. The forex is a problem. That’s the major problem we are facing.”
Akubue recommends that the “government must try more to know if there is a way to at least fix this price of dollars so that it will not be jumping unannounced. It is giving Nigerian businessmen and economy of Nigeria a lot of challenges and problems and we in the SME sector are having problems managing our business and planning for the future.”