Can Egypt’s SICO succeed in the sub-Saharan African phone market?

Can Egypt’s SICO succeed in the sub-Saharan African phone market?

SICO  Technology, described as Egypt’s first smartphone maker, plans to get into the African electronics market assembling handsets for other companies, according to recent news reports.

The company’s well-known phone brand Nile X sells for as low as $80. SICO has also started to build smartphones for Indian and Chinese firms and has suggested that other electronic items like televisions, satellite receiver boxes and electronic payment devices (POS) will be next.

According to Chief Executive Officer Mohamed Salem, quoted in a Blomberg report, international companies will “benefit from the presence of a manufacturing centre away from East Asia”. 

Big players like Tecno, Infinix and others may not agree. These names tend to dominate the affordable smartphone market and made-in-Africa brands have had difficulty taking on well-known and trusted foreign brands. 

Nevertheless the number of smartphone users in Africa continues to rise and there is clearly a strong market for such devices. If SICO seeks, as one reports suggest, to become the main contract builder of electronics bound for the rest of Africa there may be room for it.

According to Bloomberg, SICO is 20 percent owned by Egypt’s Ministry of Communications and Information Technology. It already sells its handsets and tablets in Gulf Arab countries, France and Rwanda, exporting 15,000-20,000 units a year. Tanzania, Liberia, Mauritania and Namibia are next on the list of export destinations.

SICO aims to produce more than 2 million devices of various brands next year, up from 1.5 million in 2021. Some 45 percent of SICO’s smartphone components are locally sourced.

Egypt is Africa’s top manufacturer and keen to boost trade with sub-Saharan Africa.

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