File photo: AfricaCom is Africa's largest communication conference and exhibition. Photo: jason boud

Cape Town - Smartphones from just over R300 could be available on the African market as early as next year.

This was one of the important issues raised at this year’s AfricaCom, Africa’s largest communication conference and exhibition, which ended at the Cape Town International Convention Centre on Thursday.

Panel discussions included announcements from operators such as Airtel Africa, Millicom, Mozilla and handset manufacturer Tecno, that a $30 smartphone would be launched in African markets next year.

Delegates said devices were a major part of enabling Africans to access communications services and affordability is crucial.

Alcatel-One Touch, an operator who has been attracting a lot of interest from its association with its Firefox OS devices, will be launching to sub-Saharan markets in the first quarter next year.

Ernst Wittmann, country manager for southern Africa, said the firm will be the first to bring the devices to the market, catapulting the company into a market leader in a new operating system space.

Wittmann said in the firm’s 21-year history it had seen brands merge and change names.

“We have weathered quite a lot of storms, and there was a slump in the business in the mid-2 000s. Bringing it home to South Africa, we launched the brand five years ago, selling devices under the brand in the low-cost hand feature phones.

“If we fast forward to where we are now, we are now playing in the broadband space.”

He said the firm had also evolved from being a market follower to a market leader.

 

Meanwhile, John Foster of British finance firm Debtwire, who spoke to the Cape Argus on the sidelines of the conference this week, said the company was involved in a variety of deals, including trade finance, capital finance, Islamic bonds and cross-border bonds.

“We help connect African entrepreneurs with global banks where you get very high interest rates on a one-year tenor (term).”

Foster said Africa was a frontier market but there was very little information on African deals.

 

Julie Rey, research director for Informa Telecoms and Media, said after just two days the event had seen more visitors and media representatives than in past years.

“As organisers we are getting the impression that the event has grown to another level and we are hearing that the numbers in the business deals concluded have surpassed expectation.”

Cape Argus