Image: (Supplied) Xperien CEO, Wale Arewa
JOHANNESBURG - The second-hand market is an obvious choice when looking for cheap cars but when it comes to computers, consumers are reluctant to consider used equipment.

However, this is fast-changing and there is a definite rise in demand for cheap computers in emerging economies on the African continent.

The South African second-hand market is a burgeoning industry worth around R500million, which equates to around 0.14% of the estimated $250billion global market.

These figures suggest there is huge potential for parabolic growth over the next few years.

Africa's appetite for low-cost computing comes from the comparatively low GDPs, a young population, poor IT infrastructure and tech-savvy growing economies.

Where there's a gap in the market, entrepreneurs are likely to find a solution.

There have been many initiatives designed to provide Africa with affordable computing hardware, such as the “$100 laptop” or “One laptop per child” campaigns, both being quasi-commercial projects that have either failed or have had very little impact.

This is an unstoppable industry that forms part of the wider "circular economy" that seeks to optimise the Earth's resources while preventing pollution.

By purchasing a refurbished system, one automatically contributes to the reduction of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, promotes a greener planet and creates a better future for generations to come by going green.

The local second-hand computer market, although highly fragmented, certainly fills the gap of affordable computing, with laptops starting at around R2500 and professionally refurbished options starting at around R3000.

This market has grown from a handful of visible dealers advertising in local classifieds to a community of 350 dealers in a "Computer Distributors Network" WhatsApp group. It comprises a mixture of one-man bands, computer shops, mobile repair shops, IT service providers, IT leasing companies and IT maintenance service providers.


E-commerce has also played a pivotal role in the adoption of second-hand equipment, providing key information to uninformed customers. Before making a purchasing decision, they often need to do their own research.

The second-hand computer industry has evolved considerably, it has introduced a standard called Certified Refurbished Systems (CRS). This stamp of approval confirms that all refurbishing processes are ISO9001:2015 certified and that all products have a distributor’s warranty similar to a "BMW Approved used car".

CRS also ensures a professional service, with many dealers offering products with fantastic after-sales service and warranty.

The supply of used equipment comes mainly from large corporates that are constantly upgrading to the latest technology.

Over the past few years, environmental and data protection legislation like the Protection of Personal Information Act 2013 (PoPI), the National Environmental Waste Management Act 2008 (NEMWA 2008) and the Consumer Protection Act 68 of 2008 (CPA) have driven the growth of second-hand IT equipment.

This legislation also resulted in the establishment of the IT Asset Disposal (ITAD) service providers, bringing professionalism to this sector.

The benefits of affordable, reliable second-hand computer equipment are endless. It provides cost-effective IT infrastructure options for young entrepreneurs and small businesses can now compete and focus on creating employment and contributing to the country’s GDP.

However, to sustain growth, there needs to be an authority that guides industry standards and customer satisfaction. There is currently a community being established for companies that supply second-hand computer equipment.

The potential of this industry lies in mass adoption, but this will only happen once dealers can deliver added value through professional service, competitive pricing and after-sales support, including warranties. This will bring confidence to the refurbished computer industry, avoiding any stigmas such as "dodgy used car dealer".

Wale Arewa is the CEO of Xperien.

The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.